Like Architectural Digest for the digital age, Todd Selby’s home-design photo blog, The Selby, brings readers inside the homes of a globe-scattered bunch of designers, stylists and artists. Since its inception two years ago, the site has become catnip for cubicle dwellers who like to wonder what their lives would be like if they’d, say, taken up with that guy from their college silk-screening class and moved to Laurel Canyon (apparently, the answer involves lots of macramé).
Now the blog has been adapted into a book, “The Selby Is in Your Place,” hitting bookstores April 1, that lovingly catalogues the shoe collections, knickknacks and Dinosaur Jr. LPs of the cooler-than-thou with photographs, questionnaires and faux-naïf drawings.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a supernaturally nosy person,” says the photographer, who nevertheless spends his time poking around other people’s personal spaces. “I’m as nosy as the next person.”
Self-taught, Selby gives the impression of someone who’s making it up as he goes along. For instance, one of his early stunts, in 2001, was Imitation of Imitation of Christ, a short-lived fashion line which he calls “a farce on the whole Imitation of Christ phenomenon.” He and a friend, William Eadon, took vintage clothes and “turned them inside out and drew on them,” then charged $3 a shirt. That “farce” got some press in The New York Times, which referred to it as “fashion’s latest subversive label,” and Vice magazine, though the duo remained anonymous. “We were on Fashion Television and they had to blur our faces,” Selby recalls.
Since then, he’s become more visible in the industry. Cool-kid rags such as Nylon and Dazed & Confused book him for editorial work, he just unveiled a spring ad campaign for Cole Haan and Louis Vuitton has commissioned him for an upcoming project, of which he “can’t get into the exact details.”
Not to mention, several of his book’s subjects, including Erin Wasson and Alexander Wang, are bona fide members of the style set. Lou Doillon posed for Selby in her taxidermy-stuffed Paris pad, while Helena Christensen was shot lounging on her bed wearing a flapper-style feathered headband. When he infiltrated Christian Louboutin’s still-being-built abode, “[it] was basically a construction site.” Even Karl Lagerfeld, who approached Selby after seeing his work in a small exhibition at Colette in Paris, has granted the photographer entrée into his private quarters.
“I want to make a portrait of people through their things and through the way they live, through what they collect and their books,” Selby says. And the more disheveled, the better. “I’ve shot [homes] that are straight-up messy. I think that’s really chic,” he continues, then offers: “The messiest person I’ve ever shot was Isabelle McNally,” the daughter of restaurateur Keith.
But there are still a few faces who have eluded the photographer — so far. “I really would like to shoot Ralph Lauren in his home,” he begins. “He’s really all about the lifestyle.…I’m quite intrigued.” There is also a “seven-year plan” in place to make it into the Obama White House. Selby’s just waiting for “the lame duck period,” he jokes, “when [Obama’s] more chilled out.”