Imagine yourself at a warehouse party in downtown L.A. The lead singer of Good Charlotte is here, and Fez from That 70's Show is kicking it with three girls from Steve Aoki's "Top 8." A dude with a complicated haircut is doing a drunk slip 'n' slide over spilled beer on the dancefloor. This is a cool party–at least, it looks that way from the pictures.
"A lot of people say my photography makes the party look more fun than it actually [is]," admits 21-year-old Mark Hunter (a.k.a. The Cobrasnake). The owner/operator of web-based hipster institution thecobrasnake.com, Hunter is sort of like paparazzi, except everyone wants him at the party. "Nobody knew who I was when I first started taking [party pictures], so I'd bring a really cute girl with me," concedes Hunter, a former student of Obey mastermind Shepard Fairey, and a self-described "master of marketing." "If I was taking pictures of one cute girl, it made all the other cute girls think it was okay."
Apparently, everyone else decided it was okay, too. It's gotten to the point where you can't walk into an event in NYC or L.A. without camera-toting idiots trying to get your shirt off. A blatant example of this is lastnightsparty.com, the NYC-based photoblog run by Merlin Bronques. Armed with a pink feather boa and calculated effeminateness, Bronques has appoointed himself to find every "hot" drunk girl in NYC and convince them to slut it out for the camera. People call him the "black Andy Warhol," but that's like calling Ron Jeremy the next Marlon Brando.
Media theorist Marshall McLuhan once said "art is anything you can get away with," but I'm not entirely sure a picture of two drunk girls pretending to be lesbians is art; nor am I sure people are thinking about what it means to have their stupidest moments immortalized for the whole world to see. If we're going to turn our lives into an internet reality show, don't we owe it to ourselves to be a little more media-savvy?
History has repeatedly shown us that when people become enamored with new technology, their brains temporarily go straight out the window. It wasn't that long ago that venture capitalists were shelling out millions of dollars for dot-com companies to throw lavish parties and install fire-house poles in their offices. That seems silly now, but not much has changed. We may not have millions of dollars but we're squandering something just as valuable: our privacy.
MySpace, photoblogs, YouTube, etc. are all amazing technologies, but we have to get smarter in how we use them. Our image, our interests, and our daily routine might seem unimportant and fleeting, but it's big money to the right people. Marketing agencies used to pay for the stuff we're willingly handing over for free via our MySpace profiles.
"So what? It's just the internet," seems to be the prevailing mentality, but just because all this internet stuff seems so ephemeral doesn't mean it actually is. You think that picture of you rolling around a bathtub with some girl you hardly know is going to just disappear? Think again. I can still find pictures of myself at raves wearing a Care Bear suit from eight years ago. Mark my words: big shit will go down if I ever get denied a job because of that.
Meanwhile, I'm just waiting for the day I overhear a conversation that goes: "You ever hear of that thing called porno? It's crazy. People used to actually get paid to have sex in front of the camera."