Style icons have existed for hundreds of years probably longer , from Marie Antoinette to Coco Chanel to the supermodel squad of the s. But in the past 10 years, the rise of social media and blogging culture swung the axis of style photography toward self-starters; ordinary, fashion-obsessed people with smartphone cameras and Instagram accounts now command immense cultural credibility when it comes to fashion imagery. While paparazzi remain capable of propelling celebrity, anyone who wants to gain fame also masters the art of the selfie. Even formerly crusty, freewheeling events like Bonnaroo and other music festivals have morphed into opportunities for young people to be photographed and included in slideshows in New York Magazine.
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On Tumblr, the platform du jour, there were photos of women, shoeless, in fields of flowers pouting lazily at the camera; women standing at windows in their underwear looking dreamily out onto a European street; there was even one photo making the rounds of a delicate, pale young woman in a white nightgown standing knee deep in Hurricane Sandy flood water. The photography app Hipstamatic, a gritty-filter precursor to Instagram, had 4 million downloads by , and its style was infiltrating the Tumblr feeds of every woman with an account. In , I created a Tumblr to make fun of the explosion of these filtered fantasy women. It was called Carefree White Girl, a then subversive sendup.
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