The Cobrasnake Looks Back on a Decade of Shooting Hipster Parties
Mark "The Cobrasnake" Hunter shot over a million party photos over the course of ten years.
Enough time has passed since the world was at Peak Hipster for us to look back at it as a movement, or a craze, or a meme, or whatever the fuck it was and try to take stock of what it all meant, if anything. So this week we're doing exactly that in a short collection of stories.
My career really started when I was 18. I was working for Shepard Fairey, and he took me to a lot of amazing art shows and concerts and stuff. This was before iPhones, and before a lot of people had digital cameras, so I was usually the only person there taking photos. People would always ask me to email them the pictures I'd taken at these events. And that's what I did—I would write down their email addresses and send them the pictures. I was young, so I was just excited people wanted to see my photos.
That eventually got kinda tedious, so I decided to start putting them on a website. It took off pretty much overnight. I'm pretty sure it was the first of its kind, though Last Night's Party started around the same time.
Originally, it was called Polaroid Scene, because I loved Polaroid pictures and going out at night. But after about a year, Polaroid told me they didn't want me to use their name, so I changed it. I went with Cobrasnake because it had nothing to do with photography, and I knew nobody could take it away from me.
In the beginning, I was just super excited to see all these trends. I searched far and wide and traveled on my own money around the world to see the coolest parties I could find. I was documenting the culture and, I think, inspiring the culture. Because the people who didn't go to those events could see how the coolest kids in London or LA or Tokyo or New York City were dressing, and they could take inspiration from that.
I think my documentation of the scene snowballed it. I could easily see trends spread through the internet. Like, how everyone wanted to drink Red Stripe because it was the cool drink, and then it was Pabst, and then it was Sparks. I think I might have been responsible for the trend of glasses without lenses. I had laser eye surgery, and because I'd worn glasses my whole life, I didn't feel comfortable without them on my face. So I would wear the empty frames, and I was photographed a lot, and people would always ask me about the glasses, and then it became a trend.
I think I was always a hipster, even before hipsters were a thing. I've always worn weird clothes that I've bought from the thrift store. I was voted Most Unique in my high school. I think hipster has become so mainstream that it makes it difficult to tell who the weirdoes are. Before, you could find somebody based on how they were dressed and know they would know about the Pixies or Radiohead or whatever. But now, you could talk to a guy wearing skinny jeans and he might not even be able to name a Radiohead song. The style has transcended the culture.
It's overwhelming to think about the amount of places and events and parties that I've been to. When I was looking back through old photos for this post, I realized I've shot over a million photos.
I was blessed to travel around the world and see the things I saw. I was there in the beginning for the careers of Katy Perry and Steve Aoki and Sky Ferreira. And a lot of people who were just scene kids when I started photographing them have started bands, companies, or become successful artists or designers. It's been amazing to see them rise to where they are now, and to have those photos. Nobody else can create those moments.
Everyone has a camera phone now. The party is livestreamed. Everyone is on Snapchat and Instagram. It's kind of like everyone is their own Cobrasnake. But I'm still inspired by young people being creative and having fun. I hope I still inspire them, too.
Mark Hunter is still working on photography, and is also currently in the process of reinventing himself as a fitness guru (NYMag recently described him as a "hipster Richard Simmons.") You can read more about that here.