Meet Your New Internet Friends

28Mar07

My investigation interests started innocently enough. In a typical, late-night feat of procrastination, I recalled an article I had read in Jane magazine (an occasionally substantive women’s periodical, might I add?) recalling a young New Yorker’s death-by-drug-overdose and a brief analysis of the late teenager’s fueled-by-drugs social life. As it occurred, the young lady frequented clubs that were also frequented by a burgeoning “scene”, if one can call it that, of hip young things who partied hard at various locales throughout clubs and bars in Brooklyn and Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Nightclubs are no new thing among any youth subculture, to be sure, but what Jane and other publications casually noted was the advent or internet party photography, specifically a young photographer named Merlin Bronques and his Girls Gone Wild-esque website (specifically geared towards the hipster community), LastNightsParty.com. With my interest piqued (I like parties! I like getting my picture taken!), I opted to websurf till 3 am to figure out what Mr. Bronques was all about. I didn’t find his style of photography particularly appealing, and I found his personal blog, frankly, to be mildly irritating and imitative of Andy Warhol. My feelings towards this new “trend” in the hipster community were critical yes, but also, to some extent, intrigued. I wrote in my personal blog about it at the time:

“Somehow I always go back to Mr. Warhol. What prompted it this time was a whole conglomeration of media affairs. a] this whole new trendy cocaine rich hipster party thing. It’s really intriguing and equal parts disturbing. Not that coke is a new drug, but still. I feel like all these hip undergound partiers are trying to recreate that Warhol era of drugs and parties and avant-garde beautiful people [ie new grody hipster party photographers ala Merlin Bronques and things like American Apparel] and of course its not going to work! numero uno, that era and what it created is irreplaceable and irreplicable [helloooo Baez, Dylan, Reed, blahblahblah!], and numero dos, since those olden days we have since learned that DRUGZ R BAD and can sometimes kill you a la many superstars! aw, hell, the shit these kids do! [sic]”

    A close friend and fellow blogger responded to my comments similarly: “totally fascinating in today’s context. there has been this weird, post-feminist pseudo-revival as of late (yes, american apparel! gag me!! and omg i’m such a pomosexual blah blah) that just screams of an era struggling to define itself by absorbing the surface value of the past!”
“Surface value of the past” seemed to be true to a certain extent, yes, not just in the high-contrast style of the photos, but in other manners such as facial expression and fashion and makeup, but there was also something that was intensely reflective of a new paradigm in youth subculture: the material importance of the internet and its apparent shaping of the respective identities of the young people involved in this “scene”. This apparently integral element wasn’t simply evident through the photos of regulars on LastNightsParty, but through other internet staples that I began investigating, such as photo-sharing site Flickr, blogs on sites like LiveJournal and Blogspot, and social networking sites, especially MySpace (because of privacy controls, Facebook, despite its currently ubiquity among most youth subcultures, was not as active).
In my initial stages of examining Merlin Bronques, various media (both print and internet), as well as the website itself, alerted me to two related, and often collaborative, projects. One, Merlin Bronques’ West Coast counterpart Mark Hunter and his photo website TheCobraSnake.com (updated almost daily), and two, Misshapes, a weekly Greenwich Village party run by three DJs (updated weekly). Hunter documents the life and times of Los Angeles’ premiere hipster crowd (as well as the occasional young starlet, a la Lindsay Lohan), while Misshapes posts weekly photos off their past events, the draw being the series of stoic, street-fashion-esque photos of the Saturday night regulars. Both coasts’ respective party photo efforts display a very fashion-based and artistic community, and both TheCobraSnake.com and Misshapes have loyal regular denizons of the camera who have, in their own right, come to represent a strange new form of celebrity. As I continue to investigate the culture of party photography, I find that celebrity and fame (two particulars that Warhol, as we all know, was fascinated by) compose a good deal of the thematic elements in this phenomenon. It seems to be that even the temporality of being pictured by thousands on a website (because who besides an investigator like me is going to take note of and recall photos from weeks, months ago?) is an affirmation of a particular cultural, sub-cultural identity that the particular youths involved hold very strongly.

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5 Responses to “Meet Your New Internet Friends”

  1. 1 Trish the Fish

    When you showed me the misshapes site some time back I personally wasn’t particularly impressed. Amused, I s’pose, but not struck. I mean, it didn’t come off as all that glam to me. But what do I know, I listen to hip-hop. Still, there was something decidedly “cool” about them. I had this picture of myself at one of their parties, trying to blend or whatever and failing dismally. But lord knows they’d have no such subculture-glow in Georgetown, some yacht club party, or any place beyond their “scene”. I guess I’m just wondering how much of their coolness has to do with this affirmation you mentioned. Clearly they affirm and recognize each other’s coolness at their own parties, but how much does the whole thing has to do with the recognition we assume the internet gives. That’s the whole thing with the internet, right? That when we put our diaries or pictures (or classrooms) online, it’s implied that someone’s gonna look. We assume recognition via internet, but it’s not necessarily their.

  2. ah yes ms. fish, we do assume recognition. but is that so far-fetched in our world that breds individualistic voyeurism?

    we like shiney things. news and celebrity gossip are now interchangable and apparently have the same impact on society. there seems to be this notion that if you mimick what receives recognition, you too can be recognized. But mimicking normalizes recognition, creating a sea of sameness. thus, popular culture.

    and this scene wants to be anything but popular. hm.

    people surely are hedonistic. i think the whole thing is that people like to look at themselves in an interactive mirror called the internet.

    hey, all the cool kids are doing it!

  3. 3 Alex Nesbit

    Glam? I’m feeling really old- all I saw were some emaciated, stoned kids. Is this a new trend? I think not! AN

  4. Hi all,

    Interesting project..very interesting..i came across it on facebook. I haven’t gotten the opportunity to look at anthro and new technologies such as the internet yet but I am hoping to learn something by checking out your blog periodically.

    I am conducting my own research relating to Internet and politics, and I forgot is it sean? we should talk sometime about the issues of access which i do agree is an important issue. However, there is an alarming increase (considering one has made it to the Internet) in Corporations and state censorship regimes hampering access to information ONce one finally has access.

    cheers guys.. great stuff feel free to add me on facebook or leave comments on my site..
    cheers

    JT your friend in Toronto, Canada

  5. 5 Alex

    Thank You


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