It's said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you’re one of Philly’s snap-savvy social media stars, then your pictures are worth thousands of followers and even more in earnings. With little more than good lighting and a few favorite filters, these five Philadelphians have us compulsively scrolling through their feeds for photos of fashion, food, scenery, dogs, and the occasional selfie. What’s more, they have made the city they call home their background, from evening sunsets along Delaware Avenue to a tabletop coffee snap from their favorite cafe. Philadelphia Style heard from some of those insta-famous stars of the city, and talked about these passion projects that have turned into full-time professions better known as #bestjobever.
Dallas Shaw, whose leggy sketches have strutted into the style orbits of clients like Chanel, Ralph Lauren, and La Prairie, began her water-colored career as an artist for Disney. Now a luxury project designer specializing in visual consulting and digital marketing, her work has sent her around the globe (hello, Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show!) and put her front and center with fashion’s biggest names. But it’s Shaw’s feminine, fanciful snaps of flowers, food, and travel coupled with a loyal fan base—she has more than 70,000 Instagram followers—that have turned her into a tastemaker in her own right. Shaw’s secret to success? "Not talent but persistence."
Tipping point: "I signed on for a creative project with DKNY years ago that turned out to be one of the largest social media projects of its time."
Fangirl moment: "I was at Gwen Stefani’s show in New York and met with her afterward. After a candid talk about some mutual friends and Fashion Week adventures she grabbed my phone and took selfies of us."
If I only had 20 minutes in Philly...: "I’d sneak off to Assembly Rooftop Lounge for Champagne and an epic view of the city."
Insta insights: "Keep your feed consistent in content and color while maintaining your own genuine voice. Followers will come."
What’s next: "I have a book coming out in March! It’s called The Way She Wears It and is a visual guide to finding your own personal style. Coming up is a press tour for the book, some team-ups with Vera Bradley, and design collaborations with Dawes Design, Elisa Solomon, and Lulu Frost."
"I’m passionate about food—how it’s grown, how it’s produced, how it’s plated, and consumed," says Neal Santos of his Instagram, a visual feast for the eyes that is peppered with sullen still shots and the occasional cluster of dogs. The Temple grad is a veteran of the city photography scene, having shot photo and video for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and now retired publication the City Paper. With a Budweiser partnership under his belt, Santos says he has a few more sponsorships lined up that include traveling a bit farther than his Center City studio, Rock Paper Scissors.
Inspo: "Good light, small moments with big impact, and finding balance between good composition and context."
Pluses and minuses: "The toughest part is working in dynamic environments like a restaurant, where you don’t want to be in anyone’s way and obstruct their business, but knowing that beautiful photography will always help your clients."
Staging the perfect shot: "Find good light from a window and make sure all other sources of light are turned off as well so you don’t mix warm and cool light."
Follower feedback: "Tends to gravitate toward expressions and emojis around love, as in 'I LOVE this' with a heart emoji."
Creative circles: “I find the artistic energy surrounding neighborhoods like Fishtown and Spring Arts District to be very inspiring. I love that my city can support and sustain creative work and businesses.”
Snap-worthy spots: “Reading Terminal Market, the Italian Market, restaurants with great light and food like High Street on Market, Hungry Pigeon, and Vernick.”
Neuroscientist-turned-blogger Emma Fried-Cassorla suffered from a chronic case of wanderlust throughout college: The Germantown native bounced all over the US, with extended jaunts in Montana and Arizona, before finally returning to attend UPenn. Now, instead of traveling across the country, she explores every corner of the 215 through Philly Love Notes.
A visual quilt of vivid city sights, Philly Love Notes “became a project dedicated to reminding Philly residents that there is too much in the city that is forgotten or overlooked.” The original blog that accompanied Philly Love Notes’ 2012 start has since evolved into a custom woodcut and stained-glass map shop with a Philly-centric spin and given way to Philly Escapes, a picturesque punch list of stops within three hours of the city for daytrippers and staycationers.
Inspo: "Beauty in unexpected places."
Pluses and minuses: "The best part is that I usually try to be outside to watch the sunsets and sunrises. But it requires a ton of time staring at a screen. I also spend way too much time thinking about what I’m going to post."
#WhyILovePhilly: "It’s gritty, and beautiful, and not overly pretentious (yet)."
Insta insights: "Straight horizon lines please! I only use contrast, structure, and brightness on the native IG app."
Memorable snaps: "There was an epic storm last summer that I got a before, during, and after over the skyline. It made for an amazing triptych."
Sick sites: "I used to work at the Delaware River Waterfront, so everything there was an inspiration. Outside of that, places that are beautiful and less populated like Fairmount Park."
After-work cocktails: "Charlie Was a Sinner knows how to makes vegetables combined with liquor heavenly."
Snap-worthy spots: "City Hall, The Rail Park, the blue glazed stones in Old City, the Ben Franklin Bridge."
It didn’t take long—two months, to be exact—for Sabir M. Peele to consider a new career path after he was named one of Esquire’s Five Best Dressed Men in America in 2010. That’s when he launched the fashion-forward lifestyle blog, Men’s Style Pro, a sartorial mashup of crisp suiting, classic footwear, and men’s accessories with Peele modeling along Philly’s most familiar sidewalks.
It was then that Johnston & Murphy, Awl & Sundry, and Knot Standard came calling for collaborations. The latest one, a footwear collection with Miami-based Caballero Wear, named after his newborn son Hendrix, caps off another busy year for the trendsetter. Peele’s approach is simple: “My passion is that I like to create and help guys look good in the process,” he says.
Snap-worthy spots: "Shooting anywhere on Second Street in Old City is a blogger’s dream. There’s a black and white mural on the side of Moore College of Art and Design that’s an outstanding piece of work to snap."
City speed dial: "Commonwealth Proper and Royal Tailors are my go-to for alterations. There’s no better shoe shine than at Tobox shoes and they even fix a poor patina for you, too (plus, give a stiff whiskey while you wait). One of my favorite spots for hair is The Duke Barber Co. in Northern Liberties. Sharp cuts, great convo, and amazing atmosphere."
Must-have menswear: "P’s & Q’s, Lapstone & Hammer, Suitsupply."
Pluses and minuses: "Finding time is the hardest part of the job. I’m a new dad, husband, and business owner. There are times when I’m in my office working on content and editing, but the next day I might have to fly overseas to cover London Fashion Week Men’s."
Follower feedback: "Three fire emojis."
Starting with their first gig at the Schuylkill County Fair in 1997, Grammy-winning rock ’n’ roll troupe Halestorm has toured with Evanescence, Shinedown, and Three Days Grace. Vocalist and guitarist Elizabeth “Lzzy” (that’s right—no vowels in her name) Hale founded Halestorm with her brother, Arejay.
“We’ve always had the same goal, which is just to figure out a way to do music for the rest of our lives,” says Hale, whose rock chick vibes manifest in edgy performance candids and life-on-the-road moments on her Instagram account, which clocks some 230,000 followers.
Inspo: "People, conversations, internal struggles, success, mustaches."
Memorable moment: "Winning a Grammy in 2012. It was an out-of-body experience and a personal milestone for me and my band."
Follower feedback: "I get a lot of little girls tell me how inspiring it is to see a girl on stage in rock music. I’m truly humbled by this."
Sick sites: "South Street. I have so many memories playing the bars up and down that area."
Insta insights: "I use my social media like I would a mass instant message. It’s a way to stay personally connected. I get off on letting people into my world."
If I only had 20 minutes in Philly…: "I’d go to Wawa for either coffee with Irish cream half and half or a liverwurst sandwich with mustard."
Favorite place to catch a concert: "The Electric Factory."
What’s next: "Writing and touring. We start the year off in New Zealand and Australia, we’ll be releasing our third cover EP, then we write and record our fourth album on Atlantic Records."
THIS PAGE: PHOTOGRAPHY BY AUSTIN HORTON (SHOES); MARINA T. PEELE (PEELE); LAUREN MCGRATH (FABRICS);
COURTESY OF @MENSSTYLEPRO (REMAINING); OPPOSITE: PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF @OFFICIALLZZYHALE