It used to be shameful to move back home after college–a sign of personal failure. Now, because of rising student debts and a sub-stellar economy, it’s a common reality.
That doesn’t make it any less weird for a liberated young adult to move back home and experience the childhood delights of family dinners and curfews all over again. Photographer Damon Casarez captures this odd spectacle in Boomerang Kids, a photographic collection of college grads who moved home.
Casarez spent two months traveling to eight states and 16 cities to photograph his subjects. “This project started out of my own struggle to find work and support myself after graduating college with over $100,000 in student loans,” Casarez tells Co.Design. “I had a great start in school, I was working a lot as a photographer’s assistant and shooting small editorial assignments. About a year and a half after graduating, work became extremely slow. I had drained all my resources, sold everything I could, and my last resort was to move back home with my parents, so I did.” Out of his personal plight, Casarez began to photograph friends who were in a similar situation. He sent the early shots to NYT Magazine, and his project was picked up as a feature.
You’ll notice that Casarez didn’t shoot in the documentary style, watching his subjects like a fly on the wall. A portrait photographer by trade rather than a photojournalist, he carefully poses scenes following discussions with his subjects. This discussion is key to informing a scene that feels earnest, even if it’s technically invented. For instance, when photographing Mike Billings, a 29-year-old film studies graduate who worked part-time at a malt shop, Casarez was a bit stumped as to how he could flesh out the scene.
“We began talking a bit about job interviews and looking for work. I had asked him what he usually wears to an interview or meeting,” Casarez explains, “and he replied, ‘Well, I usually wear this bow-tie and sweater, but I have to watch a YouTube video on how to tie it. I can never remember.’ That became his portrait.”
Maybe it’s these intentional moments of humor. Maybe it’s just the silliness of seeing young professionals stuck in the rooms of their 13-year-old selves. Boomerang Kids should be depressing. But it’s not. It’s as if the subjects are in on the joke–possibly because they’ve figured out something that a lot of past generations have not. As Casarez writes, “After traveling the country and talking with everyone I’ve photographed, I realized that we all want to have fulfilling careers and not just jobs where we can make money.”