With evident glee, Mark "The Cobra Snake" Hunter bypasses a long door line and climbs the steps to the packed upstairs level of the Hollywood...

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LOS ANGELES — With evident glee, Mark “The Cobra Snake” Hunter bypasses a long door line and climbs the steps to the packed upstairs level of the Hollywood club Cinespace, his digital Canon D20 camera at his side.

As soon as Hunter and his two female friends are in, hipsters in the crowd reach out to greet him, call out his name, give him high-fives. Hunter is frenetically taking pictures, complimenting strangers on their outfits, searching for the next shot almost before he finishes the first.

It is nearing midnight on a typical Tuesday for the city’s most sought-after self-made party photographer.

“I’ve met you before, I met you at that party. What was it? The Diesel party?” Hunter asks Jonny Kaps, a 25-year-old Brooklyn music publicist standing against a wall holding a beer.

Hunter is already snapping his portrait.

“He’s all over the place,” Kaps says after Hunter disappears to look for another shot. “He’s the Ron Jeremy of photography,” a reference to the famously homely porn star.

In a minute, Hunter has made it to the club’s stage, where he takes pictures of the band United States of Electronica. Hunter lifts a fist absently into the air and whoops: “Woo-hoo!”

Mark “The Cobra Snake” Hunter may be Los Angeles’ preeminent hipster.

He hangs with models, DJs, pro skaters, fashion designers, celebrities, rockers, the unbearably cool. He wears designer and vintage fashions, which he often gets as gifts. He flies all over the world just to attend parties. People, young women especially, recognize him wherever he goes.

And yet Hunter has no car, no steady job and is barely 20 years old. He gets around by bike. By his own admission, he is goofy and not exactly physically striking. He points at his wiry beard and the furry paunch of his stomach.

All Hunter does is go out at night, take pictures of people and then post the photos on his Web site, thecobrasnake.com.

Anybody could do it, of course, but Hunter has taken photo-blogging to the level of celebrity. His Web site is where Hunter holds a mirror up to hipster culture and also helps manufacture it.

The images he posts feature drinking, dancing, posing, jumping, laughing, smoking, funny faces, open-mouthed kissing, tattoos, cellphones, teeth jewelry, sweating, vomit, blood, smeared makeup and skin.

Thecobrasnake.com“> attracts roughly 10,000 visitors a day and e-mails from all over the world.

A mission in life

Hunter has been taking pictures and sharing them with friends since his late teens. After graduating from Santa Monica High School and finding Santa Monica College of little interest, he dropped out and found a job as an apprentice to L.A.-based artist Shepard Fairey.

In late 2003, an idea struck him. He drafted a manifesto, parts of which read: “Concept for the site: People try to look cool for a reason, to get noticed, but they put so much effort into their look and they should get more out of it. … This Web site will take pictures of all the hipsters in the scene, the scene could be a concert, a club, an art show or anything cool like that. So the way it goes is I’m goofy and like to talk to hot people, so I will ask to take their picture.”

The Web site launched in early 2004. At first it was polaroidscene.com, but after threatening letters from Polaroid, Hunter switched it to his nickname.

Hunter is sitting in the office he shares with a close friend, DJ Steve Aoki. From his new digs on Cahuenga Boulevard, Hunter oversees two high school girls as unsalaried interns. He spends his time managing the site, organizing his nights, networking on his earpiece-enhanced cellphone and drawing.

“If you want to look at me in a bad way, I’m playing off people’s vanity,” Hunter says.

On the prowl

The night starts at the Roosevelt Hotel.

Hunter has parlayed connections to make it inside a Teen Vogue party. There is a red carpet and paparazzi gantlet through which Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie walk.

Hunter is surveying the scene. There are large see-through beach balls floating on the pool. White leather ottomans are spread about with glass cocktail tables propped up by glittery disco balls.

Bored, Hunter decides to head to the Bloc Party concert at the Palladium. He plans on returning to the Teen Vogue party and then make it to Cinespace just as the night peaks.

As Hunter graduated from the underground to A-list parties, it is unclear where thecobrasnake.com lies on the barometer of cool. But mention Hunter’s Web site across hipster neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and eyes roll.

“For all the people who actually live here, they don’t care anymore,” says Juanita Garcia, 26, an interior designer who lives in Echo Park. “I haven’t checked it in, like, two, three months.”

“Something about it just seems forced,” said Joey Arak, the New York blogger behind taleoftwocities.org, which spoofs Hunter’s photos.

Hunter moves about the international scenester circuit so much that he lives in effect out of a backpack. On this night he is on what amounts to a five-day layover at home between traveling to New York and Austin.

In the past few months, he’s partied in Las Vegas, Chicago, Tokyo, San Diego, Tijuana, Austin, London and several times in New York.

Doesn’t he ever have to work?

Hunter says he gets paid to shoot certain events, but he is otherwise circumspect about his sources of income. He says he is aware of the criticism he and people “in the scene” often face, that they are “trust-fund babies” who have the luxury to be disaffected, blithe and fashionable.

He basically agrees with it. “It’s kind of like a bunch of people that don’t really care about things,” Hunter says, describing the subjects of his photographs. “I don’t know how these people can party every night. It doesn’t seem like they have much responsibility. They could be supported by their parents, even up to age 30. They could be bohemian, or look bohemian and act bohemian.”

Hunter grew up in the Hollywood Hills. As he explains it, he is the son of a “landowner and a dental hygienist to the stars.”

He points out that he doesn’t charge people to view his pictures and makes them easily linkable and large enough for people to print or download for whatever uses they see fit. He doesn’t smoke or do drugs. He says he never uses his camera to get a date.

“I want to have good vibes with people,” Hunter says. “With enough free love that I’m giving out, I would hope it would come back eventually.”