The End of Nightlife Photography: Why No One's Ready For Their Close-up

The Cobra Snake (Mark Hunter)

In 2006, my underage friends and I did the embarrassing unthinkable and paid a bouncer forty dollars to gain entry in to Cinespace—a hip Hollywood club that was infamous for being frequented by Los Angeles socialites as much as it was for its lenient (and illegal) door policy. The party was called Dim Mak Tuesdays and was hosted by DJs du jour, Steve Aoki and DJ AM with nightlife photography by The Cobra Snake‘s Mark Hunter—a 20-something chubby Jewish photographer who reportedly slept with young girls in exchange for empty promises of internet fame. The whole vibe was sort of dirty, but it was all worth it if you got photographed. The success of The Cobra Snake not only spawned a new era of nightlife photography, but it was also largely responsible for the career of Internet wunderkind Cory Kennedy—a 16-year old hipster who was plucked from Santa Monica obscurity after pictures of her drunk and eating In-N-Out caused a virtual sensation. Within months, Kennedy was seen galavanting around Hollywood with celebrity pals, Lindsay Lohan and Sean Lennon, writing a column for Nylon magazine, and signing a modeling contract. In many ways, she was like Edie Sedgwick with internet access, which would make Mark Hunter her Andy Warhol.

Cory Kennedy and The Cobra Snake’s rapid ascent fueled the hopes and dreams of many fame-hungry teenagers and helped propel nightlife photography to new heights, spawning imitators such as Shadowscene and Kid Paparazzi. In a sense, everyone at Cinespace was there that night because of Kennedy’s ability to get her picture taken by The Cobra Snake and turn it into some semblance of a career.

But that was then and this is now. Today the fever surrounding nightlife photography seems to have died down. In fact, there even seems to be a stigma attached to it. Getting photographed at a hip club immediately exposes you as someone who’s desperate for a kind of notoriety that no longer exists. Hunter still takes photos and has even opened a store called The Cobra Shop in Hollywood, but his name no longer holds the cachet it once did. Meanwhile, Cory Kennedy is still out being Cory Kennedy, but fewer people seem to care.

However, it could be that age has skewed my perception of things. As a 24-year old, my friends and I no longer seek validation via public party photos. That being said, maybe websites like Last Night’s Party and The Cobra Snake will always hold some weight with the fake ID crowd. When you’re underage, it seems like the point of going out is to get noticed, to prove that you were somewhere forbidden. When you get older, however, anonymity becomes all you can hope for. Going out to a bar is a way to relieve stress and socialize with friends. Sure, you wanna get crazy and maybe have your friend take your picture with their digital camera, but the thought of some random guy coming up to you with his fancy lens and asking you to pose in a disaffected fashion makes you think, “I’m way too old for this shit.” TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

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