Thursday, October 26, 2023

Q & A with Mike Brodie

Mike Brodie is a photographer and trucker currently based in Biloxi, MS. This interview was compiled over the course of several chats in September 2023.

BA: Hi Mike, How are you?

MB: I’m exhausted. Long day of being on the internet.

Sorry to make you spend more time here. The Internet can tire you out for sure. But maybe it’s not as exhausting as riding rails?

I guess it's exhausting in a different way. Staring at an endless screen or an endless horizon, both are addicting! Did you work today? I forgot, what did you say you do?

I am a photographer and writer with a sporadic schedule. Every day is different. Yesterday I was in the darkroom. Today I played bball in the morning (maybe “work” in a way, fighting for space against big old dudes?), then finished up a few writing projects this afternoon, and then spent about 2 hours just now digging through your old interviews and photos. Thanks very much for the recent batch!

Oh okay, cool. So you’re a jock stuck in an artist’s body? I feel your pain. Looking at your blog I assumed you were a teacher just because of how academic it felt, no offense. I'm glad you checked out the photos, or I assume you did? It's ok if you didn't yet. I know there were a lot...I'm just trying to move away from my old work so to speak, so I sent you all that.

Yes, I enjoyed all of them. I love looking at photos. And that folder was great. You mentioned in an email your pictures were taking a darker turn lately. I didn't really understand what that meant until seeing that batch, which are more explicit about drug use, nudity, vice, etc. Is that a conscious transition? Or were those elements always there in your photos but weeded out of the books? A Period Of Juvenile Prosperity hints at that world but in a romanticized way. 

Unconscious transition, but I definitely have a fascination with those things. A majority of them I'd say were shot in the past 3 years and were mostly a response to my divorce, and then my subsequent relationship with Mia Smith. Juvenile Prosperity days were different. I was a bit younger, naive, a little insecure. The darkness was definitely there, but I mostly avoided drug users and troublesome women.

The recent box of Polaroids seems even less "dark”.

Yeah, those Polaroids are more silly and fun, most of ‘em taken 20 years ago! I was just starting out on the road, and had no clue what I was doing.

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few (paraphrasing a zen saying).

I like that! I wonder if there’s a Biblical version of the same sentiment.

Maybe. I don't know the Bible very well but I don't think it's usually that open ended. 

You'd be surprised! 

Weren't you born again for awhile? 

I was baptized when I was 13, but it didn't mean anything to me at the time. 

Is there any phrase you remember from that time which is similar?

"You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." That one feels open ended to me, but I'm not sure. Is it saying live in the moment or plan ahead? James 4:14

Nice, I like that quote. I'm probably the last person to interpret the Bible. It can probably be pulled any direction you want. The zen quote seemed to relate more directly to your Polaroid pictures. You were just a novice shooting from the gut. But from that lack of training came a real spark I think, because you didn't know what not to do, or what rules not to follow.

Yes I still shoot the same way. I just need a spark.

Maybe that gets at another idea I was curious about. Reading your old interviews I sense a real tension between the "art" Mike Brodie, and the "regular" Mike Brodie who just wants to be a mechanic or whatever. You seem cynical about the art world and its schooling/formality/aristocratic systems. I think you want to hang onto the "spark" way or less academic shooting. And the art world is doing its best to suck you back in.

You nailed it with the second statement. Really it’s just a tension within myself, and my own ego. How the world perceives me and how I perceive myself, it's like these two ideas of a man that are tangentially connected, and both must exist to inform one another to sincerely create art. In my 20s I wasn't satisfied with just being this young punk kid roaming aimlessly taking pretty pictures. I would see tractors, trucks and trains and men working on them, and this fascinated me. I was fucking envious. Why can’t I do this? I didn't grow up with a dad to put a wrench in my hand and show me the basics. I didn't see the point in going to art school since I already knew how to make art, so I went to trade school. This gave me a good basic foundation to join the workforce and learn as much as I possibly could. I worked on trucks, I worked on trains. I got married and started my own business. I wasn't shooting a lot but I was really satisfied with my life. I loved my wife, I loved being married, I love working hard. But then shit fell apart, my wife wanted a divorce. Then I got my girlfriend pregnant, and all those tools I worked so hard for I sold at a swap meet in Arizona to make some quick money. What I've realized is, I lean on my art to express myself when other aspects of my life are failing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but I need to change my ways if I want any semblance of stability. But what’s tough is, work sucks! And I'd rather chase the spark.

You said "Work sucks”. And yes, if you are selling hourly labor to a boss with little control, that's fucked. Being a mechanic or an artist might fit into that model, depending on the situation. But if you feel empowered, any activity can be fulfilling. Is it fair to say that you are giving your art career more energy now? The new Polaroid box is just one example. 

I agree with your perspective on work. I did enjoy aspects of it when I had my own business. It felt creative to me. There was never clocking in or clocking out. It was in fact a positive outlet. I'm definitely giving my art career more energy now. I've travelled 1,000s of miles and worked really hard on these photos. It would be foolish to squander opportunities that have been coming my way. I've recognized that I AM in fact an artist and that is OK, and I can also do other types of work. Life is cool in that way. Even if I don't shoot photos for the next couple years, I have stories to to tell, photos to share, books to make!

Tell me a little bit about that big picture batch you sent me. What are the pictures about? You mentioned Mia Smith earlier. Is she in any of the photos? Are you exploring your relationship with her through photos?

“Ethereal Wraith” by Mia Justice Smith

Great questions...we might have to pick this conversion up tomorrow I'm trying to meet up with my cousin for dinner tonight...

OK cool. Have fun with your cousin, catch you soon..


Hey Mike, you there?

Yeah I’m here, exhausted again. I should probably make some coffee.

How was your dinner with the cousin?

It was good, he's kinda insane. 

What do you mean by "kinda insane"?

Well not insane, just a character! He's a tattoo artist, just tattooed me today.

No shit, what tat did you get?

I told him I wanted something patriotic. He drew a train inside an American flag with a big boat anchor. Traditional, I love it.

Why did you want something patriotic?

I suppose I'm patriotic, and I like my country. My last tattoo was also American traditional, "Sailor Jerry" but not so patriotic.

I love America too, although it has its issues. I'm bummed that the right wing has coopted the flag, or that’s how it seems sometimes. Maybe your tattoo is one small gesture to claim it for free thinkers.

That's a really good way to put it actually. So the right took the flag and the left took the rainbow! Haha. I remember seeing a lot more American flag and patriotic symbolism within the punk scene when I first start train hopping. Even though a lot of it was said to be worn "ironically" it was still meaningful and cool. Now it’s pretty much unacceptable within those circles to rep the flag.

Since you mention tattoos I have a related question. I noticed in the batch of new photos that one woman has a similar tattoo to yours. A large X on her arm. Your X is on your chest. And she also has tattooed thin small lines below her eye, similar to yours. Is there some connection? Who is that person? 

That's Mia Smith! She got that as a symbol to represent her newfound sobriety from heroin, and put it right over her most predominate track mark. My X tattoo came a bit later after we had met. Her friend tattooed it on me in Portland. It was a painful and very spontaneous decision but served as a way of showing my unconditional commitment to Mia, and the work we were doing together. She was also a photographer, but started using pretty heavily after we met, so that tattoo jokingly became "X marks the spot."

Where do you live now? You mentioned central time zone which threw me off because I thought you were out west somewhere. Where and when did you in Portland? I lived there off in a few different places near Belmont, roughly 1994-2006

I lived in Portland in 2004. Beyond that I've just passed through over the years. Mia had an apartment there at one point. Currently, I'm staying with my brother in Pensacola, FL. She lived here with me for a moment, but most of our relationship was spent on the road, either in my truck, or hopping trains.

Wait, isn't Pensacola Eastern Time Zone? 

Florida panhandle is Central time. It confuses me too! 

That's Matt Gaetz territory. Fuck that guy. 

Who's Matt Gaetz?

US Rep from Pensacola. Trump-worshipping fucktard. But let’s move on to happier thoughts. Is your brother in any of the photos you sent?

I have only one photo of my brother, not sure if I sent it. He hates getting photographed. 

You’re a very personal photographer. Your camera is kind of in the flow of life, and you shoot people as you encounter them and spend time with them. So to me it seems odd that you wouldn't turn the camera on your family more. I understand your brother doesn't like being photographed. But that's probably true of most people initially. What about your parents, relatives, etc. What about your ex-wife, or your cousin the tattoo artist? Did you take pictures of them?

Funny you ask! I literally just pulled up this old Polaroid scan of my cousin I shot in 2005. He’s like 6 years old holding fireworks. We were talking about how crazy it was that 18 years later I'm sitting there getting tattooed by him. Beyond that I'm rarely around any of my biological family. All interesting people, but most of them aren't very photogenic. Of course I photographed my wife tons when we were married, because I loved her and she was the only person around most of the time. But looking back as I'm editing my work most of those photos aren't very good. I think I sent you one or two of her, the up skirt photo with the pink panties. My dad’s been in and out of prison my whole life, so I never know what he's up to. I haven't talked to him in a while. And my mom hates being photographed because she's an aging woman and rather self conscious about that. They're both in Arizona.

What makes a person photogenic? Maybe the irony of this question is that many photographers would not consider your subjects "photogenic' in a traditional sense. Their loss.

For me, it’s a visceral feeling (the spark) that happens within certain circumstances. It's an emotional response to my everyday life. I used to pursue photos subjects almost like a formal date to take portraits, but that got old fast. I prefer shooting candidly. I suppose it’s just a gift I was born with and I've honed the skills over time with practice. It's mostly just interacting and socializing with people, but making sure you always have a camera handy, always a little exciting and awkward. But technically speaking I think what makes a PERSON photogenic is their facial geometry, but that’s a boring answer.

So you put yourself in the company of others. And some people provoke that emotional response which results in good photos. Can I assume some people don't? I guess that's the heart of it. What's in those people that provokes some connection which makes good photos? Not that there is any answer to that question. And by the way, facial geometry isn't a boring answer. That's very interesting actually.

The decisive moment perhaps? It depends on what type of relationship I have with them. Is it romantic? A traveler? A co-worker? Or are you just a fellow bum off the street? If I hang out with people who already know of me, my reputation may proceed me, so it's expected that I will take photographs or at least try. Things are different these days. Phones make everyone a photographer, not to mention film is making a huge comeback. The heart of the matter – it’s an emotional impulse I feel around someone. It can’t truly be described. I want the feeling to remaining a mystery.

How do you keep the act of photographing from interfering with your lived experience? As soon as you raise the camera to your eye you remove yourself (at least on some level) from what's happening. How do you deal with that separation? Say you're on some flat bed train car and you see your friends in a photogenic pose. The minute you take a photo you break the cosmic chain. Or no?

The cosmic chain definitely feels broken every time. However, I feel cameras ARE just part of that lived experience and life in fact is just one big performance. Another way to look at a lived experience is this: maybe the freight train is in the way and we should be doing something more productive with our lives?!

We were talking yesterday about your early photos and the Zen-like openness of shooting as a beginner. Now that you've been a photographer for a while, I'm wondering how your approach has changed. Or if it has? How are you shooting now that's different than, say, 2006?

It's convoluted as hell. It goes back to what I was saying about reputation or if someone already knows you or not. I'm better at "reading a room" now and knowing if photographing in that moment is appropriate or not, but sometimes no matter what I'll try to get a photo if I FEEL its important to me, or for posterity’s sake. I'm more honest with my intentions now too, I will directly tell people "hey I'm a photographer, is it ok if I photograph you?" I used to shy away from that, I was scared, embarrassed, and insecure about my obsessive strange hobby, didn't know how to approach people, especially grown men, they are the most stubborn.

My “obsessive strange hobby.” Well put!

I mean, it’s true! Photographers are fuckin' weirdos.

You mentioned yesterday a fascination with darker elements. What do you think is driving that curiosity? 

I think it's just natural curiosity, no different than why someone would want to be an ER nurse or a surgeon or a mortician. When I was living in the Nevada desert my neighbor died. His name was Rick Garner. He drank himself to death (E&J Brandy). 

After the coroner left I went into his trailer to look around. He died naked in his bathroom laying in shit, piss, hair, and blood. Nearby were his dentures which had fallen out of his mouth when he hit the ground. 10 ft away was a heaping mass of cat shit which had been accumulating under his bed for YEARS. It was putrid, vile, smelly, and disgusting, but tragically beautiful. I still remember the odor. When I left I had to throw away the clothes I was wearing. Even my camera SMELLED for weeks. With that said I think everyone is fascinated or at least intrigued by some aspects of sex and death, or one could say life and death? But I think my curiosity for its own sake, is headed into the light. Kind of gross, sorry.

Is that the photos you sent of the decrepit room, with the teeth in the corner?

Yes, there’s a bunch more from that time. Sadly I never got to actually photograph him when he was alive, but I found a nice portrait of him when he was a young man. I'll scan it for you.

Sex and death. Doesn't get more basic than that.

My girlfriend was just texting me about baby names. She's not even pregnant yet.

Wait, what? You said earlier she was pregnant. I'm mixed up.

Mia got pregnant, but that is a longer conversation. It'll have to be Sunday though. I'm going to Atlanta with my brother tomorrow.


How was Atlanta?

It was good, just some quality time with my brother. We got a hotel at the Westin, 70th floor with a view.

Nice. Living it up. Did you take many photos?

No, I didn't even bring my camera.

A vacation from photos. Hmm,, I should try that.

It's unusual for me, I usually always have at least a disposable camera!

Was it because you wanted time with your brother? And you thought the camera might get in the way? Or some other reason?

I'm not really sure, but I've had a wild past 3 years on the road and just haven't really felt like shooting photos lately.

At the end of our last chat Mia was brainstorming baby names. And she was/wasn't pregnant? What are some of the names she came up with?

What?! Really? When did we talk about baby names?

“My girlfriend was just texting me about baby names, she's not even pregnant yet.”

Oh, I see what happened. Unfortunately Mia died March 20th of last year. I was referring to my current girlfriend. We’ve been chatting about potential baby names if we have children.

Oh fuck, I'm so sorry.

It's ok. I thought you preemptively knew that. It was just her time to go, wish it wasn't so. Mia and I talked about naming the child Billy, after her dad. This time around we were thinking about Frankie, that’s my mom’s name. But who knows. It doesn't even exist yet, physically at least.

Can't go wrong honoring your elders. Or can you? 

HAHAHAHA. My mom has always hated her name, because on paper it looks like she’s a man. 

Speaking of names I tried to scroll through ridindirtyface IG account but couldn't find it. Did you take that down? Or did I get the name wrong?

So I've had several Instagram accounts. Currently it's @mikebrodie_thepolaroidkidd. I just feel mentally done with shooting at the moment, and I'm getting into filmmaking, at least I like to tell myself that. I have enough photo work currently to publish 4 more books, so I’ve been spending a lot of time doing that and getting my name back out there. Would be nice to make some money off my photography again.

What kind of books do you have planned? 

So I just released a small boxset of Polaroid reproductions with Stanley/Barker called Polaroid Kid. And we’re currently in the editing phase of my next photo book with Twin Palms, really looking forward to that. And speaking of Mia! James Han is currently printing her black & white negatives, making some very limited handmade books of her work to share with a few people. Hopefully I will turn that into a formal publication at some point. I sent you some of those photos actually.

Selfie by Mia Justice Smith

I know Jim from Portland. How did you connect with him? And how did you decide to have him print her negs?

I met him through Instagram. He was following an old IG account of mine, where I posted a lot of my life and travels. I think he vicariously really got to know Mia through that, she also had an account called @smack.action, and went by the name "Slack”. It was her road name. After she passed I think I mentioned to him I was in possession of all her Polaroids and negatives. He straight up just asked if he could print them and make some books, at no charge.

Selfie by Mia Justice Smith

Jim's rad. He has good energy. His photos remind me of the batch you sent me. A look behind the curtain into the underworld. 

I've never met him but I'm looking forward to it. More like behind the curtain and into the underpants! Seems like we both have very different styles but I'd hope we’ve inspired each other a little bit. I like what he does.

I'd agree you have different styles. But it seems you're attracted to similar subject matter? Do you think that's a fair statement?

Well yeah, I think he asks first, haha. We actually both photographed the same girl. Her name’s Piff. He recognized her from my page and met her on the street. He made me some beautiful prints of her. I think by nature, good compelling photography of people’s lives is exploitative. This is something Mia and I talked about since most of the work we did together was very controversial. I think Jim photographs are more stark considering his printing process and they're b&w. He also photographs more drug addicts. I'm around that stuff a lot but usually don't photograph it, Mia was an exception, and was actually the first person I ever saw do drugs intravenously.

Selfie by Mia Justice Smith

What was controversial about your work with Mia?

So my entire relationship with Mia was controversial.  I picked her up hitchhiking at Love's truck stop. A lot people thought she was underage and I got her into drugs. But she was 23 and already a fentanyl addict when I met her. Not to mention she was a total sex addict and always half naked, and I was 36 just coming out of an 8 year marriage. You do the math.

I have Jim’s book of Piff pictures called "Piff Plays With Her Pussy”. I like the book even if I don't fully understand it. About half the pictures show her fingerbanging herself. Maybe it's a conceptual thing? Same view, same pussy, same finger. You can build a billion dollar industry on that activity, but in terms of pure mechanics it seems monotonous. But I still cherish my copy. It's made from original darkroom prints. And it’s a very personal and rare book.

Piff Plays With Her Pussy, book by Jim Han

I'd like to see that book! I love Piff. We don't talk much anymore. But she will always have a special place in my heart. Your criticism is sound. I wonder if Jim had sex with her, she never told me...and I didn't ask. 

I'm sure Jim would send you a copy if you asked. Not sure if they had sex or what his relationship was, or if it matters? The way he shoots there is a tenuous divide between observation and participation. It's what I mentioned the last chat, that as soon as you bring a camera to your eye you create a division, in a way. You set yourself apart from what or who you are with. I'm not sure how Jim negotiates that division but I think probably some lines are crossed. And recrossed. They are all imaginary lines anyway.

I'm just of the opinion if a man is photographing a women, it's a sexual relationship, either figuratively or literally. And often times one party ends up liking the other. That’s been my experience anyways.

A man cannot photograph a woman without a sexual component? Hmmmm. You said something earlier which might relate. You said that "good compelling photography of people’s lives is exploitative.” I agree that all photography has a power dynamic which is inescapable. When you photograph another person you exert power over that person. Always. But of course it can be handled in all sorts of ways. It's not always a one way relationship. Maybe it can be generalized into a broader take? All relationships between all humans have some sexual dynamic? Even if it's usually pretty well buried.

Yes exactly. I'm no psychologist, I just believe everything in life driven by sex and sexuality.

Can't disagree. Life might be simpler if I just chop this thing off. I'd probably get more done.

HAHAHA, there was a really good interview recently on Soft White Underbelly, with a divorce lawyer. That was his realization too, that men are forever just control by their dicks. Shit, I have to get off soon, no pun intended. I gotta drive to Mississippi tonight. 

What's in Mississippi?

I'm moving in with my girlfriend. That's where she's from. She lives with her mom, and I'm moving in!#$% Meanwhile my ex-wife just listed our old house for $385k and she probably isn't giving me any of it. !#$%


How is Mississippi?

Good, just been "settling in". Just a temporary living situation until the next chapter of my life unfolds. I’m in Biloxi, Mississippi. Living with my girlfriend and her mom. We’re just sharing a small bedroom in the house.

How do you get along with her mom?

Well, her mom’s only 5 years older than me so we’re the same generation. She's cool and we get along, kind of a tweaker, or actually a tweaker? But definitely a hoarder, there’s shit everywhere, barely any room to walk. She reminds me of my dad’s side of the family in Arizona, so that’s comforting. I can just be myself around here. Regardless, I'm pretty agreeable and get along with most people.

You said temporary living situation. What's next? 

I have no idea. Been applying for jobs in the area and trying to sell some of my work via Instagram. Me and my brother are saving to start a trucking business at some point. Did I tell you about my ex wife? I forgot.

You mentioned her selling your old house. And somehow Mimi Plumb photographed her? And you ran a trucking thing with her in Nevada?

Oh ok, yeah. She helped a little when I started it but then asked for a divorce when I was on the road. Think that was 2020.

What was her connection with Mimi Plumb?

OH, I just remembered. I think she was at an event in Berkeley where a bunch of artists were painting a wall, and Mimi Plumb was there photographing people. That’s why if you look closely at the photo of her, there’s paint on her hand.

Photo by Mimi Plumb

Strange connection. I love Mimi Plumb's pictures. She's published with Stanley/Barker too. Maybe you know her through them? Or not, I don't know how that stuff works.

I know of her work through Paul Schiek, TBW. He did a book for her as well.

Oh yeah, Landfall. Good book. I meant to ask about Paul Schiek. I know you are friends, and that he helped to acknowledge and spread the word about your photos. I'm curious why didn't publish them himself? Why did he send you to Twin Palms?

I’m not exactly sure. Paul's a strange bird and I really never know what his motives are. I just trust him. I know he believed that work was extremely important, this was around 2009. And TBW didn't have the traction to promote and distribute it. Our first option was Steidl, but we didn't like their edit. He found Jack Woody and went with Twin Palms. It was truly a perfect union. I'm actually working on another book with them now.

What is the new book?

The book is a continuation, but not a sequel to A Period of Juvenile Prosperity. All Kodak 35mm photos I've taken over the past 10 years, some of which I sent to you for this interview. God willing, I'm trying to get the edit done by January 2024, with a Spring book release.

Can't wait to see it. You mentioned you didn't like Steidl's edit of APOJP. It makes me curious, what was different? What did they do wrong?

Steidl didn't seem to be interested in the train hopping component. I think culturally it was less relevant to them? APOJP was edited from around 8,000 photos so there were a lot of different directions we could have gone with the book. We just weren't feeling their edit, and they didn't seem to want to give us much creative control. We were told to "trust the eye of Steidl" which ended up being a funny inside joke for awhile. Besides, Jack Woody lived in Santa Fe and we were able to just drive down there and stay with him. He’s always been very hospitable.

Good decision. The book turned out great. Now I'm trying to imagine it without train hopping?! Like, that's the whole driving force of the photos. But I guess it shows there's a thousand ways to edit. It might be a German thing. Like maybe freight lines are less of a cultural touchstone there?

Thank you! And yes, it’s been the driving force of my life for 20 years so it would really hard and strange to ignore it.

Here’s Paul Schiek’s answer: "I recognized the importance of the photos and knew of the opportunity to establish you as one of the great American photographers of all time and in order to do that out of respect for the work I knew it should be published by one of the great American publishers of all time. Naturally Jack is that person and to take the work to him was the respectful and right thing to do.  It honored a tradition and a person who laid the groundwork for what I do. In many ways it was like a scene from the godfather. You don’t jump the line. You pay your dues and wait your turn."

That was probably true ten years ago. But TBW is at the front of the line now.

He's paid his dues I guess.

Are you still train hopping? Has it changed much since you started? Are you still energized by it?

I've been riding pretty hard the last 3 years but I'm starting to hurt, physically and mentally. It’s just not a good way to live. Been doing it on and off for 20 years. Changed? Yes. Energized by it? No. We could have entirely different discussion on the matter at some point if you want, but not NOW.

What about the Polaroid Kid box you just published. How did that project happen? And how do you think it turned out?

Greg at Stanley/Barker emailed me and expressed interest in publishing something, so that’s what we came up with. At first I was skeptical at the Polaroid reproduction idea but they came out great! I think there's even talk of us doing a 2nd box set. I have so many more Polaroids. Those were just some very important ones from 2003-2004.

I think the facsimiles are pretty amazing actually. They even have all the dust specks and smudges. And your handwriting. It's almost like the real thing. It questions the whole idea of Polaroids as unique objects. If they can be replicated so faithfully it makes you wonder.

I've been thinking about all that lately as I shuffle through my Polaroids and little boxes of my life. Sold a lot of my first Polaroids at a show in 2006 with M+B. Tragic really, they are so rare, never to be made again.

Oh damn, you sold the Polaroids. Who bought them?

I didn't sell all of them, just periodically sold Polaroids over the years, and have done a poor job of keeping track of who the buyers were.

Your M & B show, was that the opening where you showed up greasy and smelly from riding trains. And they tried to make you shower and change? I can't remember where I read that but if it's true I LOVE it. Fucking prissy art snobs.

HAHAHA yeah, it was all in good fun. Benjamin Trigano told me I should shower and clean up but I refused. That was my dirty kid era. I like to stay clean these days, even if I'm on the road.

So if you've sold some of your Polaroids, did that effect what you sent to Stanley Barker? Is that a selection of only what you now own, missing the sold pictures. Or was it two different sets of work?

OH yes, two different sets of work. 2003-2004 I was shooting Polaroid 600 film, then in 2005 I switched to the SX-70 and shot Time-Zero film which is how I got more dramatic portraits and landscapes.

Well I've only sold one Polaroid so far. I have an Instagram with less than 500 followers and nobody knows how to find me. The Polaroids can be published regardless of sales, as long as I have a good scan. With this boxset I decided it was a good idea to mail Greg all the originals so he could scan both sides and get a "feel" for them you know?

You can't complain that nobody knows how to find you if you keep closing and switching accounts. Just saying.

HAHA yeah I’ve had like 10 accounts!

Maybe you don't want to be found? 

I did enjoy the married life and existing somewhat in obscurity. But now I'm torn, artist or trucker? Or both? 

Why do you need to choose one or the other? It's kind of funny that you equated married life with obscurity. I'm not sure one causes the other but they seem related somehow.

I can do both if I'm an Owner Operator. But I can't pursue my art if I'm employed by someone else, which is why I quit every job I've had within a year. I'll always keep my mechanic skills in my back pocket but I sold all my tools. I guess what’s really going on is I've always felt torn between two lives.

I think we touched on that issue in the very first chat. Is it possible to get your Trucking thing up and running there in Mississippi. And then have the art thing on the side? I guess the other option is to go full steam into the art world. But it's soooo hard to make a living there. Maybe like 100 photographers in the world can really make that work financially, and keep full artistic control.

I made a lot of money with my photography in the past but I wasn't responsible with it. Now I'm starting over financially, especially after the divorce and Mia’s death. My dream is to make a feature film. But my dream is to also have a family and a successful trucking business. For creative control I feel like I'd have to fund the film myself. Could the trucking business generate enough income for that? Maybe, maybe not, only time will tell. These are the two lives I guess I'm talking about, I just feel fucking crazy sometimes. Maybe I just need to learn how to collaborate with other artists, who can help tell this story I want to tell.

Well you've found collaboration with your publishers. That's a great foundation.

“Ethereal Wraith” by Mia Justice Smith

Definitely! Filmmaking just feels like an entirely different universe.

What kind of films do you want to make?

Well, I’m working on an experimental documentary right now with Cyrill Lachauer, mostly about my experiences on the road shooting photos, and we’re trying to incorporate this subtle narrative of Mia’s life in the background. But it's tough because Cyrill is in Germany. He's funding and shooting it all, mostly out of his own pocket, he's just a working class artist as well. As for a feature, I want to tell a story about a girl who loses herself while trying to find herself, a somewhat generic example would be, for example, a female version of Chris McCandless.

Both sound cool.

Thanks man.

One thing I enjoy about photography is that it can be a solo activity. I can shoot photos, print, edit, distribute all on my own according to my schedule. I don't know much about film making, but it seems to always require other people. But I’m drawn to solo things. Maybe I'm just a loner, or a control freak.  

Yes, I love the simplicity of the craft.

(All photographs above by Mike Brodie unless otherwise noted.)