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Pictures at an Exhibition

September 05, 2004|SORINA DIACONESCU

Ah, that mythical Hollywood scene where an inebriated congress of the young, the cute, the hip, the famous and the weird convenes in tight spaces, bankrolled by a cool sponsor. That elusive, exclusive, ever-migrating spot where one may be seen, and from which one casts cool glances at fellow hipsters.

Thanks to Mark Hunter's, you can now visit that place without leaving your computer stool.

Hunter, who is all of 19, a shutterbug-about-town and a card-carrying scenester, goes out five to seven nights weekly, snapping candids all the way. The inspiration to snap away came last fall while he was enrolled at Santa Monica College and "not paying attention in class."

"I've always been taking pictures, and I felt that sharing them is the next logical step," says Hunter, who began posting his candid snapshots of L.A. revelers online in January. The site rapidly morphed into an irreverent version of those old-school society pages that run in the back of Town and Country or Interview magazines. Local scene makers pore over frequent updates grouped by event under headlines such as "Step into My Office" and "Party Mammals." "It's quite a success," Hunter says of his creation.

This may stem from the site's blend of paparazzo insolence and snapshot naivete. (Hunter actually uses a digital camera, not a Polaroid.) Diverse social circles--Snoop Dogg & Co., teen gutter punks, the cast of "The O.C." or visiting East Coast rockers--are here democratically arrayed: a backyard barbecue in Silver Lake, a dressing room at the Henry Fonda Theatre, the bathrooms of Hollywood's poshest boites.

Party planners have offered to fly Hunter to Miami and New York, and he's sold images to cellphone company Virgin Mobile, but otherwise he's resisting corporate blandishments--for now. "I'd rather not be known as a sellout," he says. "Unless I'm getting enough money."

There's also artistic purity to consider. Hunter sees his work as urban anthropology, and he turns his camera with equal curiosity on the homeless or on teens getting trashed in parking lots. "I'm amazed with the audience that I've built," the enterprising artist says. "When I throw in some artsy photos in the future, maybe I can trick people into liking them."

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