The Millennial generation took the economic uncertainty of the Obama era and turned it into an exciting exercise in creativity. COLLiDE chatted with New York City photographer Laura June Kirsch about all the moments she captured for her new book, ‘Romantice Lowlife Fantasies: Emerging Adults In The Age Of Hope.’
Laura June Kirsch is pleading her case on behalf of Millennials everywhere—it’s time to cut them some slack.
Maybe the side parts and skinny jeans are off-putting to the TikTok generation, and maybe Gen X’ers will never understand the craze for avocado toast, but like it or not, Millennials have staked their claim on the culture of creativity. Navigating their 20s in the midst of a recession and significant social change, Millennials carved out their own sector of the economy: artistry.
An accomplished photographer and alumnus of the 2010s social scene, Laura June Kirsch knows firsthand the plight of the Millennial in pursuit of a creative career. Instead of a cubicle, the NY native spent her 20s in concert pits and crowded house parties, camera in hand, clicking away. The moments she captured are all on display in her new book, Romantic Lowlife Fantasies: Emerging Adults In The Age Of Hope. The book is a visual retelling of the subculture that characterized Millennial life in the Obama era, featuring original pieces from Allison P Davis, Darlene “Dee Nasty” Demorizi, Brooke Burt, Allyson Toy, Caitlin McGarry, and Jessica Amodeo.
Kirsch came of age in the era of all-night escapades in New York City, of following the biggest crowd wherever it gathered and immersing yourself in the adventures you encountered. It was new, exciting, a time where anything could happen. For Kirsch, it was a time for working hard and playing hard: 14-hour days spent shooting and off to the next concert as soon as she wrapped.
But that was the dream. Kirsch fell in love with the camera at the age of 5, and after her first Beastie Boys concert at 13, she was hooked. Diving into the indie music scene, Kirsch reveled in the lifestyle of a creative constantly on the move.
“I think a lot of people would be like, ‘That’s a weird dream,’ but I loved it—I loved that time. It was a very romantic time,” she said.
Kirsch emerged from the era with a massive collection of moments she captured. Strangers, friends, strangers who turned into friends: They were all in the photos, the cast of characters decorating the memories made in venues and bars and houses. Turning her photos into a book, Kirsch said, was always an end goal, but the process was lengthy. First conceptualizing Romantic Lowlife Fantasies in 2016, Kirsch began the daunting task of analyzing her catalog in its entirety.
“I knew I had all these great photos, but I didn’t have time to edit it down. I didn’t know what it was yet. I worked backwards, I went and edited everything down and took the stuff out that I liked and went, ‘What’s the story here?’”
The story, she found, was one of an almost nomadic spirit. Entering the workforce in the middle of the recession, Millennials were faced with some of the worst job prospects in recent memory. With salaries slashed and traditional opportunities a rare find, many took the creative route, forgoing the classic white picket fence in favor of a career rooted in their passions. The pay was virtually nonexistent, but the passion was overflowing.
“If I’m going to be getting paid no money and be struggling, I’m at least going to be shooting fun things, shooting things I really want to go to and things I care about,” she said.
Riddled with uncertainty about the future, Kirsch and her contemporaries bounced around from one night, one show, one party to the next. But being in the moment was what it was all about.
“No one really knew what they were doing at that time, but everyone was ok with just kind of living,” she said.
The Millennial misconception, one that insists upon unrealistic expectations and entitled attitudes, is misguided. The truth is that Millennials entered adulthood in an economic climate that set them up to fail, that forced them to find an alternative route to the traditional path of a steady job and a house in the suburbs. Millennials aren’t unmotivated or underachieving—they’re innovators, opportunists who took the grim cards they were dealt and found a way to play a winning hand. Faced with an economy in a downward spiral, the creatives of the Millennial generation turned their potentially disastrous early adulthood into a neon-tinted lifestyle of epic romanticism, and the proof is in the photos.
Romantic Lowlife Fantasies: Emerging Adults In The Age Of Hope is set to release in Fall 2021 and available for pre-order here!