Todd Selby is a man of many trades, but widely known as the man behind The Selby, a blog that offers an insiders view into the creative minds and personal spaces of those he photographs. Launched in 2008, his audience grew and the demand for his photographic eye did as well with ad campaigns from Louis Vuitton, American Express, FENDI, among others. Not one to let personal projects slide, Selby published his first book, The Selby is In Your Place, a look into the homes of authors, musicians and other creatives in 2010. The Edible Selby followed two years later and last week he released Fashionable Selby.
You had many different jobs before becoming a photographer what led you to picking up a camera and start shooting?
I’ve always been traveling with my family as I was growing up and taking pictures. I’ve always had the interest. Before I moved to New York I didn’t know what being a photographer was. I knew about National Geographic and that sort of thing, but never about the world of being a professional photographer and shooting advertising. It was a new world to me.
Did you ever intend to make a career out of photographing people in their homes or work spaces?
Yeah, I’ve been a photographer since 2001 and that was my career. That’s how I started by taking pictures of my friends and their stuff. And then I started The Selby as a personal project while I was doing commercial work and working for magazines. But, I didn’t know The Selby would become my full-time job.
Launching a blog in 2008 was ahead of its time in a lot of ways – what was it like being one of the early photo bloggers online in 2008?
I was thinking maybe I could make a gallery show from this or work on a book (photos of friends and spaces). And my friend, Mark Hunter who does the Cobra Snake, was the one who encouraged me to do a website and get myself out there so many more people would see it. He said you can do whatever you want. It’s all obvious now, but back then I was, yeah that’s a really good idea! He pushed me to do it and I’m quite thankful for that.
What do you think contributed most to the growth of viewers on your site when you first launched?
I had a novel approach to something. I had my concept and was doing things in a different way. People are curious about other people’s lives.
How do you choose who to feature on The Selby?
My focus right now is on the book – The Selby gets updated every week, but I’ve been working on Fashionable Selby for the last three years.
How did you decide on the theme of your latest book, Fashionable Selby?
The first book was homes and then food was Edible Selby – I was looking for the topic for the third book and felt like fashion just made sense. There are so many colorful characters in the fashion world and it’s a world I’ve been involved in for a long time, on the outskirts of it. I’ve always been fascinated by it and thought I could really show a unique, behind the scenes insight into the fashion world and highlight a lot of the really great people I’ve met along the way. I wanted to show a different view into fashion.
Did you have an idea of who you wanted to feature for this book?
I definitely had a few; I didn’t start from scratch. I worked quite a few times with LVMH and I met Faye McLeod and Ansel [Thompson] a couple of years ago – they have their own visuals department within LVMH. I met them on a plane from Paris to Shanghai on a project I was working on for Louis Vuitton. They do a lot of different things, but one of the things they do is all the windows for Louis Vuitton stores around the world. So we’ve had a long-term relationship, knowing each other, working together, and being friends, and I found out they were working on a project to gold plate dinosaurs and put them in the windows. I was able to photograph them working on this project – working on it in their atelier in Paris and in New York and then the display in Tokyo. So they are a couple of people I definitely knew about ahead of time.
What was it like meeting Christian Louboutin for your first book?
I met him four or five years ago. He’s one of those people in fashion who I just love. He’s so colorful and has a unique vision and is so down to earth and creative, just brilliant. If he hadn’t already been in my first he would have definitely been in my fashion book.
Do you find the interiors of those in the fashion industry to be different than those in the culinary world?
The food book had a lot of restaurants and farms and this one is a lot of ateliers and studios and fashion people’s homes – so just by the nature of it they’re very different. But when you look at my books you get the same feeling and the same kind of layout and concept is there.
Would you consider yourself a fashion person?
I consider myself a fashion fan. I’m a lover of fashion and design. I like to try and support people doing great stuff. I’m excited the book is out and there’s a lot of press and will hopefully help out some of these young designers and connect them together. It’s one of my favorite parts about the book.
Do you get excited about your own personal style?
I do – it’s something I’m very interested in. I get excited going and looking at the shows. And I have my own interest for what I wear.
It seems you really enjoy traveling – where are your favorite places to visit?
The list is so long! I like to go to new places and I always love to go to San LA, Francisco, and Miami, Nashville – I like to go all over. I like to go to Tokyo every three or four months and I get to London about the same. I’m always on the move.
Where do you see The Selby in 5 years? Can we expect more books from you?
I have no idea. I’m not one to repeat myself. I’m always evolving things and I’ve been getting much more into films and directing. I recently directed an American Express TV commerical. Five years is forever and away.
I definitely plan on doing more books and always pushing myself and challenging myself to go into new places, worlds and learning. One thing I have going on is my charity project with Ebay. There’s an organization called Creative Growth in the Bay area and they provide studio space for people with disabilities and also art therapy. They have amazing artists who work there. So for Ebay I did a bunch of illustrations of my favorite things of paintings and then auction them off and all the proceeds go to Creative Growth.
I’m always trying to do new projects and I’m excited about this new book! And the book comes with paper dolls – illustrated with different types of outfits. There’s a girl doll and boy doll and you can even cross dress them if you want. I’m hoping people cut out the dolls assemble them!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Purchase Fashionable Selby here.
Find more information on the Creative Growth Art Center and Ebay auction here.