Todd Selby’s book is all about people and their places
Don’t be deceived by the charming watercolor illustrations or the childlike handwritten questionnaires sprinkled throughout Todd Selby’s new book, “The Selby Is in Your Place.” When it comes to photographing interiors, Selby has standards. He’s not specifically interested in expensive decor or clean architectural lines (although you’ll find both in his book). He’s looking for people who outfit their homes with a point of view. When Selby is in your place, your record collection is noted, the books on your shelves are documented, and the artful way you arrange your flea market treasures is celebrated.
“It’s very specific what I’m looking for, and it’s nothing formulaic,” the photographer said. “It’s really about style.”
Selby started shooting homes in June 2008. Working as a celebrity portrait photographer since 2001, he found he preferred profiling subjects in spaces that were meaningful to them — Dolly Parton in Dollywood, Jeff Koons in his studio. In 2007, the London Guardian asked him to photograph Tom Wolfe in his Upper East Side apartment, where the writer lives among a collection of portraits of himself. Selby was disappointed when the publication ran the obvious shot of the famous writer in his famous white suit, and it included none of his pictures of Wolfe’s stuff, including a pristine white hat on a stand, a signed print of an elegantly dressed monkey and an enormous vase of beige flowers.
In response, Selby started a website called TheSelby.com to publish photos that capture his subjects through the things they have collected and the way those things are arranged in the home.
Most of Selby’s early pictures were of individuals most people probably haven’t heard of — artists, designers, stylists, independent film directors. His first subject was William Eadon, a long-haired, heavily bearded jewelry and clothing designer and photographer living in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. Highlights from that shoot include a collection of black-and-white skeleton suits hanging on a wall, an old fashioned Ouija board and an R-rated picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Although he continues to photograph little-known people, the homes he profiles in his book include the very-well-knowns. Among the 33 homes featured in “The Selby Is in Your Place,” you’ll find a dreamy ramshackle house in Laurel Canyon that belongs to a shaggy musician and a film director, as well as pictures of Karl Lagerfeld in his Paris studio, model Helena Christensen in her West Village apartment, and even Barneys creative chief Simon Doonan and designer Jonathan Adler’s fastidiously art-directed “shag pad” in New York City.
During the last couple of years, Selby’s personal project has turned into his full-time job. He now gets commissioned to photograph interesting people in interesting spaces for Vogue and the New York Times Magazine, among others. Last fall he worked on an ad campaign for Nike where he documented athletes in their homes and hometowns, and most recently he shot the spring-summer Cole Haan campaign, also in typical Selby style.
The photographer features the Cole Haan campaign on his website along with his noncommercial work. The Cole Haan images feel a bit cleaner than most of the photos he takes exclusively for the blog, but they still have the trademark Selby vibe. His interior shots tend to focus on people and details, not entire rooms, and the photographer clearly revels in studied messiness.
“After reading the book, I think you get a feeling of what I’m into,” he said. “Creative chaos and collage.”