It's really such a set of tinkertoy relationships. Students at art schools excel by creating work that reinforces the artistic ideologies of their instructors. Those instructors are an important conduit for those young artists to exhibit at school, in print, and in the local (or broader, depending on the prestige of the school) gallery market.
In 1973 we had boxcars stuffed with Minor White & Avedon wannabes.
Now we have no shortage of people paddling in the wake of the Bechers and Gursky and Loretta Lux.
How is that different? I don't see it.
What I do see is a changed environment, with a far larger saturation in corporate marketing, where the art world's desperate grabs at being notorious have bled-over into the world at large, so that people idolize 50 Cent and Paris H and Mike Tyson and so forth. There was scandal before but it wasn't as openly considered as a career move a la Lindsay Lohan. I am a bit disturbed at photography's complicit role in all this (before photography there were famous persons, but no celebrities).