While hitchhiking may conjure up images of the Beat Generation, life on the road continues to be a viable means of creating a dynamic, alternative community. These black-and-white portraits portray the individual souls of lost youth who have abandoned their homes to travel around the country by hitchhiking and freight-train hopping.

Following the call of wanderlust, escapism, or the search for transient jobs, these individuals find a new family in their group of traveling friends. They are photographed on the street using natural light, in the space in which they are found. In some cases they have been photographed in different cities, at different periods of time, and sometimes years apart.

Their (unique) appearance is the result of their (varied) experiences. Like graffiti on the walls of the city streets they inhabit and the trains they ride, their bodies and faces become the visual storybook of their lives. Tattoos are often given to one another by “stick and poke”—a technique using a pin or needle with India ink to inscribe a memory from their travels. Their clothing is often a mismatch of found items. Jackets, pants, and vests are self-made—like a patchwork quilt of fabric pieces consisting of fellow travelers’ clothing. They use metal bottle caps, buttons, safety pins, lighter parts, syringe caps and patches for individualized embellishment.

Each traveler’s story is different, but they are bound by a sense of community. In some cases, though they have lost their biological families, they have forged new bonds with their fellow travelers. Their tough appearance is beguiling. In fact, they are some of the kindest people one could meet. Their souls are open and their gift is time. As one stated, “They will give you their time because time is all they have.”

—Michael Joseph