Cobra Snake is young, making money and still using coupons
Mark Hunter (a.k.a. the Cobra Snake, with Karl Lagerfeld, left) grew up in L.A. and went to Santa Monica High School. But your average 20-something he is not. Some would describe the 24-year-old as the definitive photographer of hipster culture worldwide.
Getting his start as an assistant to Shepard Fairey, the young photographer quickly became immersed in the creative worlds of haute couture and club kids. He has met, partied with and photographed celebrities. Now he works alongside them and considers many of them his friends.
On his website, where he sells his photos and clothing, he has posted a tribute to DJ AM — with photos of the deejay smiling, working and hanging out. And although he's quiet about the topic of Adam Goldstein, he dishes about just about anything else — except how much he earns from taking photographs of other people.
Hunter chatted with us about his dream life, what he’s wearing, and what’s next:
When’s your birthday? July 21, 1985
I’m on the cusp, but I’m a Cancer.
You’re very young and yet you’ve achieved a lot. Do you already feel as if you’ve seen and done it all?
No way. I’m just beginning. I’ve got so many other cool things I’m trying and working on. I’m really excited about life.
Can you talk about those cool things you’re working on?
One is that I’m working with RVCA [the surf and skateboard line] and we’re doing a collection with pieces of clothing that I designed.
What kind of clothes? Men’s? Women’s?
Fun button-ups, crazy jeans. It’s good for everyone. It’s wild and crazy like me.
Speaking of clothes, it’s been said that you dress badly and that you will wear absolutely anything. Why is that?
I’m so aware of fashion and trends. I’ve photographed New York Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week and other fashion-type things. I digest all that and I just do whatever I want.
Is there anything you wouldn’t wear?
No. I find irony in everything. I’ve worn Ed Hardy on occasion. It was my Halloween costume. I wear Crocs out. I get made fun of for that.
What are you wearing right now?
Right now, I’m about to go to Hurricane Harbor or Raging Waters — whichever one has better coupons. So, I’m getting my beach look on.
I’m pretty sure you are doing fairly well financially. You still use coupons?
I love coupons.
What are your dreams?
To continue to be creative and sort of push the boundaries. This whole thing has been ridiculous for me. I got into meetings with big corporate companies and I’m on the agenda as “Cobra Snake.” It’s crazy.
Cory Kennedy. You helped her get her start. What made her stand out among models/subjects?
She has amazing personal style — mixing things you would never think could work, and she makes them look great. Along with her carefree personality. She is a very magical person.
And what about your beginnings. How did you get started in your business?
I was working for Shepard Fairey for a couple of years as his assistant. He was introducing me to a lot of cool parties and art events. Events where Bjork would be deejaying and things like that. I recognized that this is special, so I would take pictures. People would say things to me like, “Hey I didn’t bring my digital camera tonight. Can you e-mail me some pictures you took?” So I would e-mail the photos. Eventually I set up a website called Polaroid Scene.
What kind of camera do you use?
I never talk about my camera. Everyone has been trying to rip me off.
Do you have a work routine? Things you do to get yourself ready?
It’s hard because I’m preparing myself for many different climates and I never know what I’m getting myself into. I’ll do a keys, wallet, cellphone check. Camera, extra batteries.
Do you have a favorite night club?
Not really. Cinespace in Hollywood.
Talk about club culture. How has it changed since you’ve been photographing it?
It continues to evolve. Kids are finding the same music off blogs. Kids in Australia can listen to the same music they do here in L.A. because of the Internet. It’s a crazy international party scene.
You’re from L.A. Like many photographers and other creative artists, did you ever do the bi-coastal thing, splitting time between here and New York?
Yeah, I shared an apartment with Steve Aoki in New York for about two years. For a while, I focused a lot of energy on building a fan base in New York. Now it’s more international cities.
You’re all over the world now. What’s your favorite city?
I like Sydney. I like Paris. I like Tokyo. It’s so hard for me to pick. I’ve gone to Argentina with Toms Shoes and did a shoe drop. Giving shoes to those who don’t have them. It’s not always about partying.
Do you photograph bat mitzvahs and bar mitzvahs?
Yes. Also weddings and birthday parties and Sweet 16s.
How many assistants do you have?
I have an amazing team of about 10 people that help me with everything. From running the Cobra Shop, my online store, to helping with photo shoots, art shows and castings. We also go on team hikes and bike rides.
-- Lori Kozlowski
Photos: Cobra Snake