Mike Brodie has captured something raw and honest in his series of 30 photographs on display in Los Angeles at M+B. The gallery, consisting of a converted bungalow and modern annex, provides an intimate look at the heroic historian's three-year journey as a cross-country stowaway, hitchhiker, and pedestrian. The title of the exhibition, A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, conjures the current and all-too-familiar entitlement of youth. Brodie and his travel companions, however, embody a life not of privilege, but rather one of unapologetic adventure and survival.
This is the gallery's second exhibition of Brodie's work--the first was in 2006 and featured a collection of Polaroids he took during an earlier trainhopping escapade. The photographer's initial camerawork earned him the nickname "The Polaroid Kidd," but he has since opted for a 1980 Nikon F3 and 35mm film. The result is a more expansive tableau and richer perception of Brodie's adventures exactly as he experienced them. Even though he is untrained, we're somehow thankful for it. His lack of inhibition and captivating self-unawareness closes the gap between photographer, subject, and audience...creating a powerful sense that not only are we invited along for the ride, but we were there.
Mike Brodie, #4353, 2006-2009 © Mike Brodie: from A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, Courtesy of M+B Gallery, Los Angeles, www.mbart.com
Brodie's collection tells a story in movement, a narrative that is interspersed with tender moments of stillness. In #4353, Brodie captures two lovers lying on a bed of flattened carboard, a tired accordian and lace-up boots resting almost within reach. The composition of the subjects in the frame radiates a spiraling, dream-like trance--it's no wonder a protective hand is kept on her lover, lest she float away. A stowaway in #3102 wears a cape of transparent black lace while fearlessly grasping a rusty locomotive's ladder with a single hand. The ground beneath him has a movement so quick, it appears more like an Impressionist's painting than part of a chromogenic print.
Mike Brodie, #3102, 2006-2009 © Mike Brodie: from A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, Courtesy of M+B Gallery, Los Angeles, www.mbart.com
The travel culture Brodie has photographed as both a participant and observer is fluid and candid, while punctuated with stop-and-stare beauty. These young nomads wear taped-up boots and Nikes, have dirt under their fingernails and tattoos on their hands ("STAY GOLD" and "FREE RENT"), and keep in touch via cell phones and social media. So that they might answer someone who asks, "Read any good books lately?" with Hunter S. Thompson's The Rum Diary or 3 by Flannery O'Connor. And tell someone who wonders "Been anywhere interesting lately?" "Yes. Forty-six states."