First, a little background: The Brown Shoe Company is based in St Louis. And as a self appointed cultural mayor of the Midwest city, it was my duty to go downtown last night to celebrate the company’s 100th Anniversary of the company, which was one of the very first to join the New York stock market. (I wasn’t the only one from the Lou who was down there either. Nelly, of St Lunatics and ‘Hot in Here’ fame, was also in attendance.) But what I didn’t expect at the bash was the performance from Jennifer Hudson. The Academy Award winning American Idol semi finalist waltzed onto stage singing, and by the end of her performance had the entire room gobsmacked. This was no cocktail fair. Effie White was back, and she brought the place down. I was in the DJ booth when she started, so I managed to sneak over to the side of the stage to steal this video. Doing St Louis proud!
If I had to make a list of my least favorite things, these three would be on the top: sunburns, large groups, and lines that snake through metal barricades. But perhaps the thing I like the least – and something that my therapist (if I had a therapist, that is) would have a field day with – is missing out. So, when my friend Poppy Delevingne invited me to celebrate her bachelorette party, or hen party as the English call it, at the Coachella music festival, I vacillated on the subject. I’ve never done Coachella before. All those girls in tiny denim shorts and boys with farmers tans, a large portion of which seem to be under the influence of some mind altering substances? Not for me. But, I rationed, is this my one chance to experience Southern California’s largest outdoor music festival? After all, every year I get a little older, and no one wants to see the creepy old dude rocking out in the back of the lawn.
So, I went. And I’m happy I did. My first and most likely last Coachella experience was a rewarding one. It combined the joys of celebrating the last few moments of unmarried bliss of a close friend with the enjoyment of some of Pop music’s biggest acts. Beyonce made a surprise appearance when her sister Solange performed. Pharrell wore the hat. Again. I fell in love with Lorde. Again. Outkaste was pretty good. Calvin Harris was really good. Alexander Wang’s party had a set from Iggy Azaela, followed by Major Lazer; Jeremy Scott’s party was in Frank Sinatra’s old Palm Springs pad and I had a dance off with a freshly bobbed and blonded Zoe Kravitz. And, oh, my friend’s bachelorette party was like the adult version of my favorite high school pool party: We ate too much, drank spiked punch, played on inflatable animals in the pool, unintentionally stole each other’s sunglasses, and didn’t get enough sleep. In fact, I plan on recovering from the weekend just in time for Poppy’s wedding next month.
Captions, from top: Cara, Poppy and Sienna at the bachelorette party; Alexander Skarsgaard and me; sunset in Palm Springs; Michael Polish and Kate Bosworth; a live set from Major Lazer; Rosie, Fergie and me; nightfall at the festival; Poppy’s crown, which I stole (sorry, Poppy); me and Kate; Michael, Noah and Alex; Conrad and his girlfriend with Petey, Gabriella and Gaby; poolside giggles; Cara about to leap on an inflatable; Caroline de Maigret at Alex’s party; Lily and Poppy showing off their locks on the dancefloor; Rita Ora at Frank Sinatra’s house; and a final shot on the way home
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.
UPDATE: Since I’ve posted this, the New York Times has done a fabulous review of the xx at the Armory. But be warned: There are spoilers.
We weren’t given that many details. The woman from Burberry who had invited us sent this scary email that said if we weren’t on time we wouldn’t be let in, which gave me a bit of anxiety. It was a Vogue party. Who can’t be fashionably late to a Vogue party? But I followed directions, showed up on time, turned off my phones, left my camera at home. And I was happy I did. We were lead through an underground tunnel of the Park Avenue Armory in New York, and then emerged in a small tent with the band The xx. I won’t tell you what happened next. It wouldn’t be fair to the band, or to someone who is reading this that goes. Suffice it to see it was emotionally fulfilling. It was epic. It was a live gig that melded an art show with a light installation. There was a reception afterward and the band came in, and I was something that I haven’t been in a long time: Speechless. Last night was the first night of a 10 night gig in New York. Do whatever you have to do to get tickets. But if you don’t, do what I did for most of today: Just watch their videos on Youtube. Here, I’ll help you out.
I felt like a schoolboy playing hookie: This season, I skipped Paris fashion week to be in LA, replacing fashion with art and the Academy Awards. There are a few reasons for this, mind you. First of all, the artist Taryn Simon had an opening at the Beverly Hills outpost of Gagosian. And secondly, I hadn’t been in LA for Oscars weekend in a few years and I could have used an injection of sunny glamour after such a brutal winter. (The irony that it rained for most of the time wasn’t lost on me.) Besides, I had just been in Paris for the couture shows last month, and I had already done Milan.
Oscars weekend in LA is a very peculiar thing. It’s like all four fashion weeks combined into one, but stripped of fashion show runways and replaced with red carpets. The faces are just as beautiful but more familiar. In fact, the quotient of famous people in a small space becomes to intense that suddenly the existence of fame itself becomes a desensitizing commodity. It hits the saturating point where it becomes, Eh, who cares? Suddenly, seeing Lupita Nyong’o in the Chateau Marmont lobby isn’t as impressive because you just bumped into Olivia Wilde’s baby bump waiting for your rental car at the valet. (Though, for the record, my highlight of the weekend: Literally being in a corner with Baby from Dirty Dancing.)
For someone who doesn’t work in Hollywood, the pressure is off. In fact, it’s all fun and jolly and – this is a pretty perfect for it – gay. I spent the first part of Oscars night eating pizza in bed with my friend Jacqui, and then threw on a tuxedo after I watched Jared Leto accept the Best Supporting Actor Award. I adore Jared, a friend I had interviewed about the part of Rayon for the cover of Candy magazine last year, when she was just a character and not a career defining role. (READ THE ARTICLE HERE.) Then I went first to Elton John’s viewing dinner (I was there when Kelly Osborne strangled Lady Gaga in the ultimate photo op); then to the Vanity Fair Oscar party, which involved two security checkpoints and a level of glitz that is to be expected from the legendary party. My night ended – or rather the next morning started – at a party high in the Hills that I probably shouldn’t talk about if I ever want to be invited back. (Suffice it to say a legend who’s name starts with the letter M was the mistress of ceremonies.)
Before the Oscar weekend festivities, the weekend was anchored in something serious: The American artist Taryn Simon’s opening at Gagosian. Titled ‘Birds of the West Indies,’ it’s an obsessive observation at creating the legacy that has become the James Bond franchise. From the show notes: “In 1936, an ornithologist called James Bond released the definitive taxonomy of birds found in the Caribbean, titled Birds of the West Indies. Ian Fleming, an active bird watcher living in Jamaica, subsequently appropriated the name for his novel’s lead character. This co-opting of names was the first in a series of substitutions that would become central to the construction of the James Bond narrative. In a meticulous and comprehensive dissection of the Bond films, artist Taryn Simon inventoried women, weapons and vehicles, constant elements in the films between 1962 and 2012.”
My father has been a fan of the Bond films for as long as I can remember. Watching ‘Live and Let Die’ at our condo, which smelled like mildew, at the Lake of the Ozarks is one of my most wonderful childhood memories. So to see the components of these films, like Jane Seymour (who was Solitaire in ‘Live and Let Die’) and the speed boats and the handguns, was a peculiarly touching experience. This being LA, however, Taryn’s opening was as star studded as ever. Jared was there, and so were a bunch of other West Coast lumanaries, like Cameron and even Gwyneth. (Taryn is married to Gwyneth’s brother, Jake.) Seeing all that Bond memorabilia reminded me of the depth and the warmth of my childhood in Missouri, which are emotions that are sometimes hard to find in this town on this weekend.
CAPTIONS, from top: The prince of the weekend, Jared Leto, and I at Taryn Simon’s opening; Lady Gaga, Kate Hudson and Leslie Mann at the Vanity Fair party; Behati Prinsloo, Hilary Rhoda, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Lily Aldridge; Poppy Delevingne and Sienna Miller at the Chanel dinner; the French filmmaker Alexandre Espigares, who won best Short for “Mr Hublot,” with his wife and Jason Stathom, who he said he had a shrine of at his house and was nearly shaking when I introduced hem; Rosie and me making a Gayle King sandwich at VF; the highlight of my weekend: being in a corner with Baby from Dirty Dancing; Tayrn Simon after her opening; Jacqui Getty, Wendi Murdoch and Eva Chow at Taryn’s dinner; Elle Fanning, Terry Richardson and Jared at Taryn’s opening; coming up Rosie; the Oscar nominated Barkhad Abdi and his friend, who I bumped into on the street walking up to the Vanity Fair party; Anne V, Ashley Green and Angela Lindvall with Dan and Dean from DSquared2 at Elton John’s party; Rosie and Erin Wasson causing trouble; Sean Avery and Noah Mills; Rosie and four K’s: Karolina Kurkova and Karlie Kloss; me and Annie Hathaway