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Songs for sneaking out
Photography Marisa Chafetz

Is this what your childhood nights looked like?

Capturing hazy summer nights and intense young friendships, this photographer delves back into small town life to reimagine the youth she wishes she had

“I see everything so differently, even though nothing about my hometown has actually changed. It’s about how quickly we grow during these ‘coming of age’ years, and how different I feel as a person, month by month,” says 20-year-old photographer Marisa Chafetz.

In her photo series Songs for Sneaking Out, Chafetz explores the themes of time and reflection, moving slowly and deliberately through dreamy snapshots of her hometown Locust Valley, analysing her changing perspective on the place she grew up.

She explains: “These photos are basically the photos that I wish I took in high school but I didn’t. I’m in college now and I live on my own, away from my small town, and I can finally see the beauty in all of the things I hated growing up. When I was in high school, living at home, I was always escaping to the city – New York City, as I grew up on Long Island – and avoiding the suburbs. Now coming back, I wish I participated more in small town life, because I think it’s its own weird subculture in a way.”

Chafetz removed herself from what was once a suffocating, stale environment, and it was then that she was finally able to appreciate the beauty of small town life. She threw herself into the lifestyle, volunteering as a summer camp counselor. "I really wanted to see what would come of acting like the girl I felt like I should have been in high school," she observes. "You know, just a stereotypical high school girl, instead of the girl I actually was in high school, which was kind of miserable and always wishing I was living somewhere else. This summer I threw up at parties, wore my dumb staff shirt everywhere, hung out in 7/11 parking lots; all the stuff you do in a small town. I let myself finally just indulge in all the stupidity of being a suburban kid instead of trying to escape it all. Thats what the photos are about."

She views adulthood as a tainted thing: spoiled by formality and manners, and says this is why she escapes to childhood. "High schoolers are more pure in terms of emotion – as soon as you are an adult, even all of the things that are more developed in your adulthood, like your sexuality, confidence in relationships, ability to love un-selfishly, are more mild in terms of who you are as a public person."

"I took everything for granted in high school, I had so much stability just from seeing the same faces everyday that even in the face of instability elsewhere, I had a platform to be emotional. I distributed my emotional weight thin enough to be able to bear the aches of growing up. I didn’t need to survive on my own. When you are an adult you are just focused on surviving, surviving will come before anything frivolous, emotionally."

Photographing her childhood best friends and her 16-year-old brother, Chafetz constructs a loving ode to days gone by. Her subjects frolick in the surf, teasing the dawn. Youthful, intense friendships and romances are alluded to with hickeyed necks and kisses in the shadows. Shots are permeated by the inquisitive and cheeky nature of youth under purple-tinted sunsets and on sandy, pebbled beaches.

Check out more of Marisa Chafetz's work here