The Cobrasnake Shots From the Hip

A photo retrospective by the founder of the Cobrasnake recalls the wild and wondrous L.A. club scene of the aughts
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Once upon a time in Hollywood, a windblown PARIS HILTON arrives.(PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)

When Santa Monica native Mark Hunter, then a 24-year-old assistant to Shepard Fairey, started snapping photos of revelers at Los Angeles clubs in the early aughts, he couldn’t have known he was seeding a trend that would transform popular culture. In L.A.’s post-9/11 malaise, there existed a primal desire among the young and beautiful to party like it was still 1999. When they gathered late at night—at Lex Deux and Teddy’s and Guy’s Bar and Hyde Lounge, their ranks swelled by putative stars like Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Mischa Barton, and Lauren Conrad—Hunter was there with his camera. When the photos—unsparing, luridly graphic (pinned pupils, sweated mascara, smeared blood)—posted on his website, the Cobrasnake, the world beat a path to his URL. What Hunter had documented were the first stirrings of hipster culture and, with it, the dubious rise of uncredentialed “influencers” as arbiters of taste and style. Facebook, TMZ, and Twitter, launched in 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively, followed, but it was Hunter who first captured the aesthetic that would define the face of social media for years to come. “Long before there was an Instagram feed to scroll through, people would refresh my site over and over,” Hunter writes in The Cobrasnake: Y2Ks Archive, his just-published retrospective. “My pictures tell the story of a time when the world felt refreshed and remixed, when style and substance converged, and when youth culture dominated and demolished. People wanted me to take their picture because they wanted to be part of that story.” —MICHAEL WALKER

The late artist DASH SNOW—“Fallen angel, RIP”—striking sparks.(PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
The Cobrasnake captures BECK during his mid-aughts comeback. (PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
(PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
Life of the party KATY PERRY doubles as a one-woman canvas.(PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)

WHEN I GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL, MOST OF MY FRIENDS WENT OFF TO COLLEGE. I WENT TO THE TROUBADOUR.

(PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
MISCHA BARTON at the height of her The O.C. fame. (PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
(PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
Rapper-designer and “newsboy-cap wearer” ANDRÉ 3000. (PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
(PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
DITA VON TEESE fans herself. (PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
(PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
TRAVIS BARKER and the late DJ AM. (PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)

BEFORE YOUTUBE AND INSTAGRAM, THE ONLY WAY TO GET FAMOUS WAS TO HAVE A PICTURE OF YOURSELF POSTED ON MY WEBSITE.

GWEN STEFANI and No Doubt’s TONY KANAL in line for the loo. (PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
Pre-YouTube JEFFREE STAR. (PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
Peanut-butter lover ROSIE HUNTINGTON-WHITELEY. (PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
(PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
When KANYE mingled with the masses. (PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
Shades of LADY GAGA with boyfriend REZA NADER. (PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
The Cobrasnake founder MARK HUNTER strikes a pose. (PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)
(PHOTOGRAPH BY THE COBRASNAKE)

This story is featured in the August 2022 issue of Los Angeles

(Photograph by Corina Marie at Tail o’ the Pup, June 2022.)

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