The rise of the Instagram tabloid: how the platform is reviving the golden age of celebrity culture

With the rise of social media, it’s no secret that journalism has changed. This is particularly true of tabloid magazines, which have become all but obsolete for the modern generation. We might still flick through a 2017 edition of Who in the dentist’s waiting room or be drawn in by New Idea’s promises of ‘shock’ celebrity weight gain, breakups, and babies as we stand in line at Woolworths, but the reality is we no longer depend on these sources for our fix. We have Podcasts, Twitter, and the dreaded Daily Mail for updates on all things Hollywood.

But still, something’s lacking – and a niche corner of Instagram seems to know just what that something is, as the platform is being increasingly dominated by accounts that post rare or vintage photos of beloved pop culture figures and moments. One account, known as @velvetcoke, has tapped nearly 1 million followers, while other accounts like @retroliquor and @90smilk average almost 300,000. Their respective content is not tied to a particular aesthetic style or colour palette as so many of today’s brand and influencer profiles are. Instead, the photographs are varied – ranging from a bright-faced Lindsay Lohan walking the red carpet at the 2003 Teen Choice Awards, to Patrick Swayze behind-the-scenes of Dirty Dancing, to a pouty James Dean and Ursula Andress at the 1955 Oscars, to Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, clad in matching silk slip dresses, in late 90s New York, to a sweaty, half- naked Axl Rose on stage in 1988, to Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg in 1960s Paris, to Brad and Jen (when they were simply Brad and Jen) roaming the streets on a sunny Los Angeles day in 1998.

The time periods range far and wide, but significantly, the years from the late 1990s to present day remain largely unexplored, as though the closer we get to ourselves and a landscape that is recognisable, the less interested we are. We still yearn for celebrity culture, but not as we know it today. Instead, we seek something real (or, at the very least, something we might imagine is real), something unmarked by familiarity. We want candid, we want personality, we want to transport ourselves to a different decade, a different place, surrounded by different people and different ways of being. It’s nostalgia, plain and simple. And although we may bear witness to these once-forgotten images via our new generation iPhones, we do it to connect to a time where such devices hadn’t yet been dreamt into existence. 

Tagged in fashion, Culture, celebrity, social media, What messes with your head