Always a purpose, always a reason for a photograph.
Starting with the photographers who captured the Great American West, its beauty and potential to engage the American imagination and that of a President. What resulted? Yellowstone National Park.
There came a time in mid 19th century NYC when a Danish born/American photographer wanted to change the wrongs of the evolving industrial world, including undrinkable water supplies and poor housing Jacob Riis was one who used his newspaper, a crew of photographers and flash photography to promote social reform. One of his most famous books was How the Other Half Lives.
Born in Europe and having spent time painting in Paris and London, Steichen came to America and with Steiglitz and others helped establish the modern photography movement in America. He worked at Conde Nast for many years and brought beauty to magazines and advertising. He was director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art from 1947 to 1962, and was responsible for more than fifty shows, including The Family of Man in 1955, the most popular exhibition in the history of photography.
Starting with the WPA during the 1930's and then the rise of popular magazines, including LIFE, TIME, LOOK, Saturday Evening Post, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, People and many others that required hundreds, if not thousands of images a week from American landscapes during the depression to war zones to Hollywood dressing rooms to Elvis, Woodstock, race riots, assassinations, Presidential elections and more.
I think women like Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, and the talented portraitist Annie Leibovitz have paved the way for the kinds of imagery that is popular on social media. This is something I might want to study, but my gut feeling is that their out of the box thinking, seeing and feelings are often what people are attempting today when they represent themselves and their lives in still shots and video.