Last Monday I got to visit Todd Selby and be in his place - a small studio/office, tucked below ground level in the East Village where he works and launches off from, always in search of interesting people he can photograph.
In person, Todd is not necessarily what you would expect. Thin, with Buddy Holly glasses and fine, curly hair, he is personally guarded and speaks precisely about his project, TheSelby.com, which he started as a hobby, and has become, since 2008, a fabulously public success. Always and still a non-commercial side project, the seriousness and the amount of work that has gone into his site is impressive, and Todd's ambition to create his own voice is clear.
Since starting in 2008, Todd has photographed and published over 150 people in around their homes, in places as disparate as Australia, Japan, Mexico and Europe, and built a remarkable reputation as one of the freshest eyes in portrait photography. His pictures are dense with information and beautiful, while the people he chooses are hip and fashionable friends and acquaintances he's made during his travels as a commercial photographer.
The book, however, which came out a few days ago, goes further than the blog, becoming a highly personal statement, with writing, drawing, stickers and an unconventional layout design approach to give you the full feeling of who his subjects are and where they live (most of the folks and pics in the book have never been seen on the blog).
Based in the notion (with which I well agree) that you can only tell so much from a person's portrait and so much more from a portrait of a person in his or her home, Todd has visited 40 new people in 33 spaces from around the world, and taken portraits of them where they live. His style is loose and reportorial, and you get the sense of a moment in time - like Robert Frank's The Americans, only this could be called The Global Creatives. The group includes a few famous names, such as Karl Lagerfeld and Jonathan Adler/Simon Doonan, but mainly it's filled with super cool hipster creative types who do things themselves and live modestly. They are collectors and eclectics, surrounded by stuff that they've made or are working on.
In fact, the book is so packed with cool people, that by the end of the book, I wished that there were MORE famous people in the book, more spectacular interiors, or LESS cool people. As much as Todd's eye captures the personality of each home, the cool factor is so high, that you feel as if you're staying on the surface and not really getting the whole story. You want some rough edges, some variation or just a break in the tone.
That said, there is no doubt that The Selby Is in Your Place is going to be a must have book for many people this year. Seen less as a book about people or about interiors, and more as an art book that captures our cool moment right now during the Great Recession and as a vehicle for Todd's great eye, you definitely will want to pick it up and thumb through its pages.
>> The Selby Is in Your Place