Fashion and interiors photographer Todd Selby never dreamed he’d spend his days behind a lens, much less shooting inside the homes of creative icons like Karl Lagerfeld and Christian Louboutin. He grew up in the suburbs and worked a bevy of eclectic jobs—Tijuana tour guide, exotic flower wholesaler, and Japanese clothing designer to name a few—never having considered or even heard of a career as a photographer. All that change when Selby moved to New York and began working at Details in 2001. Selby began taking photos of his friends and their homes, developing his own portfolio in his spare time. These pictures—intimate glimpses into the lust-worthy (and often cluttered) spaces of artistic personalities—soon became the buzz of the design community by way of Selby’s photoblog, The Selby.com. We sat down with fashion’s favorite voyeur to talk Selby beginnings, dream subjects, and his new book, The Selby in Your Place. Details after the jump.
On what brought him to photography: I’ve enjoyed it since I was a kid. I used to do it a lot when I was growing up when my family would travel. I didn’t know about being a photographer. I knew about National Geographic and the person who did school portraits, but I never knew that an editorial or advertising photographer existed. After I moved to New York City, I got involved with different design stuff and learned photography. I worked for a magazine and I thought I wanted to work at a magazine. Then, I realized that photographers had the most fun. That’s kind of the coolest job.
On the beginning of The Selby: On the weekends, I started developing my portfolio, taking pictures of my friends and their homes. Some of the same people that I shot for beginning The Selby were the same people who I shot for my portfolio in 2001.
How The Selby went from personal project to what it is today: I worked for a long time in media work and in London doing portraiture. For magazines I would do a portrait of a band, do a picture of an author in their home, do some celebrity portraiture—I tended to shoot people in their spaces. I just thought it was a lot more interesting than just shooting someone in the studio in a space that had nothing really to do with that person. Then, I wanted to do a personal project based on my interests. So, I just started out doing The Selby as something for myself. I thought it would be kind of cool and fun.
On his blog becoming popular: In the beginning, nobody looked at it. It was just me and my friends. By word of mouth, they’d send it to their friends. Then, other blogs talked about it. It just started getting really, really popular. As it became more and more popular, people started e-mailing me and sending pictures of their places.
His first subjects: I’ve been excited by a lot of the people I’ve photographed, to be honest. Especially in the beginning, when I was just starting out and people were just like, “Yeah. It’s cool. Come.” In the beginning, it was just me and my friends. I’d say, “I’m doing this project. As a favor to me, just let me do this thing.” Then, people started being down with it and excited about doing it and that was really exciting to me.
On the 9-5: I don’t miss any of that stuff. I feel like it’s fun and good and healthy for people to do a lot of different stuff and try things out. I think that I did that and it was really fun. I think my job right now is really amazing. I get to travel. I get to meet really interesting people, go to their house, find out all about them. It’s intellectually stimulating for sure. It’s really fun and artistic and creative. It’s pretty awesome.
The most lust-worthy space he’s photographed. I’m not a very jealous or envious person. I just go in. I’m happy with my own place and my own things. I approach it more as an interest in how other people live. I feel like the Neistat Brothers who are in the book have a really cool office space. I think I was the most inspired by their workspace. In my space, I have all these hard drives and cords that drive me really crazy, but they actually took all the cords and tapes and everything and made it into a cool display.
Dream subjects: I’d really like to shoot the Obama family in the White House. I’d like to shoot the astronauts living in the international space station. I really want to shoot Ralph Lauren and Bruce Weber. I think he’d be really interesting. Those are my top picks.
If time and space weren’t an issue… I’d like to shoot me and my family when I was a kid.
On his new book: I’ve worked on it for so long. Most of the shoots in the book have never been published before. I put a lot of love into that thing. I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s not just my website in a book form. I think it really adds a lot to the whole thing.
Upcoming projects: I do a fair amount of advertising. I shoot for Vogue Paris. It’s a style and home kind of thing. I did my first shoot for American Vogue recently, which was really cool. I do a lot of cool editorial and I just always try to keep working on my own website and doing a new post every week.
Go-to spots: The Smile for dinner. You know The Smile on Bond Street? And, Il Buco for lunch, also on Bond Street. I go to Saltie on Metropolitan in Williamsburg. I was just there today. I love the Jane. Now that it’s reopened that’s exciting for me.
Image by William Gentle.