A foreboding, the crossroads of youth, a fork in the void. A young mother with legs spread wide only moments away from forcing a child into the world. To focus on the center of this image and let your imagination run out, is to see the unopened door to the womb. A tender, sparse pubis ripe for the picking. A family tree putting on another ring, each and every one of her roots a dead-end road. The unknown abyss staring back at an unassuming youth, believing all the while there were dreams out there.
The photographer finds himself at a particular latitude and longitude where rules and logic no longer apply and harsh reality sets in. The scene before him is one that cannot be created, it must be recognized and then captured in order for its power to become a reality. Nailed to the pages of Mike Brodie’s book: A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, this image takes on an importance which is historic. All this space, and no-where to go. How many lost youths have traveled these tracks, or crossed this overpass and failed to recognize that jagged horizon fading into a soft white, each and every one of us on a collision course with death. No matter which way you take, you’ll arrive at the same place. A hypnotic, heavenly light at the end of a long tunnel, always and forever, just out of reach. The vast American nightmare and nowhere to sleep! Looking at this photograph I feel my entire youth summed up in one seductive and chilling image that cannot be altered by time. The roads are impassable, and no matter how many have traveled them, they’ve left no tracks, there is no map, and they never, ever, came back. You are alone, and this photograph lets you know it. You can either embrace that, or hurl yourself off the bridge onto the tracks. This is quite possibly one of the most incredible landscapes ever collected by an American photographer because it shows us that.
If a book has a binding that holds it together, it’s this single photo that holds all the other images in place, gives them potency, and allows them to make their mark. You cannot get here without being stranded. This is what it means to be young and without a country no matter what has been preached in the schools and churches that dot the landscape like a false constellation, you are looking at god and getting no direction. Not a star in the sky you can trust, not a compass to make sense of the landscapes, you are on your own out here. Mike Brodie has been there, done that, and miraculously made it from this impasse without landing on the tracks or the bill of a speeding train. He has found that place where one shot on fallen snow is more powerful than all the guns in the world. This is what it means to photograph.
Scott Hobbs Bourne is a Paris-based writer and photographer. In our very first issues, we invited different people to write about an image they found memorable, under the headline ’Sinnbilde’, a column inspired by FOAM Magazine. Now, in Objektiv’s 10th year, as the ocean of images continues to swell, we’re reigniting this column online.