Todd Selby and I met at a New Year’s party (well, I guess you could call it a party) in a small town in the Yucatan Penninsula a half decade ago. A mutual friend, who we love but is a little bonkers, had promised a disco rave in an old school Aztec village. What we got was an iPod dock and some Red Bulls in an abandoned town square. But, wow was it fun. Todd is the sort of guy who can have fun anywhere. Which is the reason why I like his style of photography so much: He notices the little things, shoots the quirky things, has an eye for something special when it might be easy to miss it. His newest book, seen here, is all about fashion people. Here, we talk about it.
Derek Blasberg: I have to be honest: I love going to people’s houses. I will go to the house of someone I don’t even like, just to see their house. Are you the same way?
Todd Selby: I’ve always been curious about getting to know people and I always thought the best part of being a photographer for a magazine was seeing peoples houses and learning about them through that.
DB: Have you ever been shocked by someone’s house?
TS: I do my research and never agree to shoot a place till I have seen photos. I have never shot a place just on word of mouth.
DB: Oh, but I bet now everyone wants you to shoot their place. Do you get a lot of requests?
TS: People come to me all the time, but the vast majority of what I do is still finding the subjects I want to focus on.
DB: When you go into people’s houses to take pictures, do you have a good ice breaker? Do you sit for a cup of tea and make them relax? Or do you go straight in and start snapping what they have in their cabinets?
TS: My ice breaker is to ask for a tour of their house. This gives the subject a chance to off the bat tell me and show me what’s in their house and I start to get a sense of things in the house are especially important to them.
DB: How long does a tour take?
TS: The tour usually takes 5 to 10 minutes and I do start casually taking photos of some of the items the subject mentions.
DB: Do people need some wooing? Or are they typically game from the get go?
TS: If there is someone I really want to shoot, now I just send them my other books so they get a feel of what I am looking to do with them. Having the previous books definitely helps me a lot.
DB: How did you start taking pictures of peoples’ places in the first place?
TS: started shooting my friends and their places on my time off and it evolved from there.
DB: Who were some of the first people?
TS: My buddy William Eadon was the first person, which you can see here
. Carols and Marico were another one and what was funny is that Marico feel asleep during the shoot. The first and last time this happened to me thank goodness!
DB: This newest book is dedicated to fashion people. Why fashion?
TS: Fashion is a world of kooky colorful people, such as you, Mr. Blasberg. It’s a natural fit for my photography.
DB: Who’s the kookiest fashion person, if you had to pick?
TS: Definitely me! I am up to all sort of kooky stuff all the time.
DB: In your experiences, are fashion people tidy at home? Or more messy? I like to think creative people have really messy homes. But maybe that’s because my house is really messy.
TS: It totally varies, some creative people are in the messy camp and some are ultra organized or minimalist. It runs the gamut.
DB: Anyone shock you by being particularly messy-minded, but very organized at home? Or the other way around? Do you think that most people ‘clean up’ for you?
TS: People generally do clean up and even I think art direct their homes before I come. I’ve caught people putting together perfect piles of books and neatly arranging their shoes, just for me.
DB: Most of the spaces you photograph are extremely eccentric, so you must be somewhat immune to too much zaniness. But, has there been a place that you’ve just been floored by in terms of bonkers design?
TS: The goal for me is that someone picks up the book and no matter where they start, they see one of the crazy kooky places I shot.
DB: Any funny stories on the job?
TS: I’ve been really into the cat t-shirt style for a long time, and then I met Natalie Gibson who has 18 cats and has been wearing cat things for many, many years. She is the originator of the cat in fashion movement.
DB: You travel all over the globe for work, is there one place that you think has a tendency to produce more noteworthy spaces?
TS: London and Japan are where I found the most out there spots!
DB: What’s the most random spot you’ve venture for a fashion person’s home? Any distant, far off place?
TS: For one shoot in the book, I went out to Yuima Nakazato’s tree house two hours outside of Tokyo where his family lives. That was pretty epic!
DB: I think Manuel is the jam. You tried on those jackets, didn’t you? You must have.
TS: I was definitely considering it. But I just didn’t know how I could pull it off.
DB: Missed opportunity. Has anyone ever given you any amazing home souvenirs?
TS: I definitely get a lot of little presents. Louis Vuitton has definitely showed me the love over the years with bags and all sorts of camera accessories.
DB: Simon Doonan wrote the forward in your book. How did you get involved with him? Have you ever been in his closet? Tell me the truth: How many feathered boas does he have?
I shot him for ‘The Selby is in Your’ place and have known him for quite a long time. I’ve photographed him in his closet so you’ll have to check it out yourself!
Captions, from top: The cover of Todd’s book; an interior from Virginia Bates’ bonkers space; some rad jackets from Manuel Couture; works from Written Afterwards; a Natalie Gibson sketch from the book; Todd, shot by Mark Seliger.