One of the big things I’ve noticed this year at the late night parties is not a presence, but an absence. The last few years all of the mega-hyped parties featured an official “party photographer.” Guys who label themselves under names like “The Cobra Snake” and “Last Night’s Party” are two good examples of this. (Just Google them. Warning- sometimes their stuff is NSFW). They’re pseudo-celebrities who can give a party just a little more weight in credibility by documenting the party with spontaneous portrait photography and then uploading the photos to their respective sites.
Except none of them are here this year. That’s not to say they’ve disappeared all together, but the trend seems like it’s waning a bit. What I have noticed at the parties is, tucked away in a corner, a makeshift “portrait center.” These usually involve a backdrop and, sometimes, even props / wigs. Simply grab a group of your friends, stand in front of the backdrop and get your portait taken. The photos of the night are then usually accessible by a website the following day. It’s kind of like a hipper Sears Portrait Studio, set up right in the middle of a really cool party. Politeinpublic.com is a good example of this.
Why this subtle shift? I think part of the reason is that, with the potential for all photography posted on the web to be seen by anyone (bosses, friends, mothers), it’s actually smarter to exert a little more self-control now. You choose to get your photo taken or you choose not to. Those party photographer websites can sometime seem like the hipster version of Girls Gone Wild, which is a strange mix of youthful party exuberism contrasted with tinges of regret. Remember, if a photo is put up on the web, it will always stay on the web. The party portraits show a marked restraint.
But perhaps the biggest reason is that party photography has totally integrated into Web 2.0. On Flickr, Facebook and (now) MySpace, individuals can post their own party photos and then “tag” all the people within it. Plus, commenting on photos are always encouraged. So rather than having a party photo of you on a static “party photographer” site, you now have that similar-styled photo on your good friend’s Facebook page, tagged back to you and commented on by all the people you care about anyway – your good friends.
Basically the party photographers are now out of the equation. The new party photographers are now you and all your friends.
*Party portrait courtesy of Allison Narro.