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.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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  • Blah Blah Blah

    I cringe when “photographers” are lurking for pictures

  • uhnonnymus

    Oh god you were one of THOSE. Explains so much.

  • http://newhandsweepstakes.com/writings/tijuana-story-by-brian-mcelmurry/ Brian McElmurry

    I enjoyed this.

  • Arianab1

    Since when does that constitute “chubby”?

  • Rue McClanahan

    you meant cachet, not cache.

  • anon

    that girl's boobs are hella hanging out. get a grip, slut.

  • too rude magazine

    so good –> “she was like Edie Sedgwick with internet access”

  • too rude magazine

    also, who wants to bring their DSLR out at night anymore?

  • Evident Utensil

    Cory Kennedy? Haha. Sarah Morrison? Haha. I bet they all wish it was 2007 again. Welcome to the age of no1curr.

  • ruthlezz

    TC feels like HRO today. Kind of bummed I know who Cory Kennedy is now.

  • uhh

    I cringed when I saw that there is an article about this shit and it's February 2011.. Sorry if I'm getting ahead of myself but I just assumed our generation has agreed to pretend this thing never happened

  • joychan

    Oh noes, that's too bad. Don't worry though, about your last paragraph that it's pretty passé for the underage crowd as well (namely me and my peers).

  • rugwars

    O'Dell rip offs get epicly laterd?

  • Preston Thalindroma

    I'm a social photographer, I shoot photos under the name SayCheeseAndDie, I've been doing it for 4 years, and I know what you mean. The younger crowds want their photos taken the most, but there's definitely still a huge older market for this sort of thing. It just depends on how well you network and make friends. Make a lot of friends, get invited to capture their memories, get $. There's tons of pool parties in LA, and nobody goes to a pool party if they don't want to be seen. Social photography ain't gonna die, the bad photographers with no skills will.

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