Maigan Kennedy, a graduating theater major at Meredith College in North Carolina, decided to go a different route for her graduation photos.
Instead of the typical photos taken by every graduating senior, Maigan decided to feature something that she is taking with her long after her college experience — her debt.
What began as a normal graduation photo session soon turned into a sad but spot-on commentary on student debt.
According to BuzzFeed News, Maigan found inspiration for the "drowning in debt" graduation photos from the Kevin Spacey movie American Beauty.
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) April 25, 2016
Maigan said that after she watched the scene where Mena Suvari is covered in roses, she thought it would be funny to reenact the moment in a photo where she is covered in student loan bills.
"I kind of wanted to poke fun at the institution of academia."
With the help of her friend Areon Mobasher, a photographer and student at nearby North Carolina State University, Maigan posed for the camera to capture not only the traditional shots but the tongue-in-cheek shots poking fun at student debt, according to Mashable.
"I knew I wanted to take pictures to celebrate graduating. But they couldn't just be your average smile-and-shoot because I'm too goofy as a human being. I wanted to express myself the best way I know how: humor."
Mobasher told BuzzFeed News he agreed to shoot the photos for Maigan because she's a great friend and he's known her for a long time. However, he was taken a little aback when he realized what Maigan had in mind for the photo shoot.
"I initially expected them to be the standard series of graduation photos, similar to the ones I've been taking for seniors at my school these past few weeks. Knowing Maigan... well, I should have expected these photos were to happen."
— North Carolina Rose (@NCRoseoftralee) April 22, 2016
Once he learned what Maigan Kennedy wanted to capture, he said he was "totally pumped to do the silly photos."
"Maigan and I have a similar sense of sarcastic and self-deprecating humor, so I was eager to make these happen."
To appease the parents, Maigan Kennedy said she also took the more traditional photos, although it's likely that these hilariously sad pics will be remembered much longer. So far, she hasn't heard from her parents about the viral photos, according to Mashable.
"I'm not even sure my parents have seen the pictures yet! More than half of the shoot was dedicated to smiling, happy photos to use in graduation announcements. Something to make my Mamaw happy. Love you, Mamaw."
Kennedy posted the entire set of pictures to Imgur under the name pearlsandwhiskey after the shoot, where they became some of the most viral shots on the site.
"Most people have responded positively, either by expressing that they found it funny or by commiserating with the indebtedness aspect."
It's not surprising that so many students can relate to Maigan's photos. According to Market Watch, the total student debt in the United States amounts to $1.3 trillion, with individual students owing on average $29,950. According to the site, the total amount of student-loan debt rises by $2,726 every minute.
Maigan Kennedy said she believes the interest in the photos stems from the fact that so many college grads can relate as college student-loan debt continues to rise.
"I don't have any friends who don't have debt from school."
What do you think of Maigan's graduation photos? Can you relate?
[Image via Maigan Kennedy/Imgur]