Not even Eyjafjallajokull’s little ash cloud breakdown could keep Grazia Daily away from Todd Selby yesterday! Originally scheduled to make an appearance at Selfridges last night, signing copies of his book “The Selby is in Your Place”, we chatted to him over the phone from his New York base and tried to find out what he finds irresistible, design-wise; how a personal project launched in 2008 turned into the place for your place; and how on earth he managed to get Karl Lagerfeld…
Grazia Daily: Congratulations on your book, it really looks amazing and it seems to contain quite a lot of previously-unseen images. Why did you decide to do that?
Todd Selby: Thank you. It’s actually mostly unseen, that was an important thing for me when I was trying to decide what to put in the book because I wanted to really give people a reason to buy it. I wanted it to be exciting for people so I showed a lot of my favourites but then I also wanted to show other stuff.
GD: It appears to us that you’ve managed to do on a daily basis what most of us consider a ‘secret guilt’, looking into other people’s homes! That must feel like quite the achievement.
TS: Yes, it’s very fun! I have a fun job. I really like it.
Elisa Nalin, Paris
GD: And I guess another achievement must be creating a website that regularly attracts 35,000 people a day! Does this seem surreal to you or is it natural because you’ve put a lot of hard work into it?
TS: Yeah, it depends on the day, of course, but on a good day 35,000 wouldn’t be uncommon. It’s not natural, I didn’t expect to be able to do this book out of the project and I didn’t expect for it to get so much attention. I just did it as a personal project because I thought it would be interesting and fun for me to do, fun for people to see and it really caught on!
GD: And why do you think it has caught on so much?
TS: I think that, like you were saying, everyone wants to look into everyone else’s lives, especially with these creative, interesting people and see how they live their lives and who they are. That element of voyeurism or nosiness is just a human thing.
GD: A lot of the people you started photographing were friends and now this has evolved. How do you choose whose space to shoot?
TS: A lot of it was friends or friends of friends and then I just really focused in on shooting people that interest me. So, it’s creative people who do and make interesting things, like artists, designers, architects, chefs and I focused in on those who actually express themselves through their home and through their space. It’s quite specific what I’m looking for.
Abigail Smiley-Smith and Philip Smiley, London
GD: Do you think there is a ‘Selby’ style or a common thread that unites all these different people and spaces?
TS: Well, I guess the common thread that unites them all is me! So, beyond that, I don’t really know that there is. They all appeal to my eye and to my interests so that’s the thing that unites them. Other than that, I try to mix it up as much as I can in terms of their age, ethnicity, their income, where they’re located, the more mixed up it is the more interesting it is, at least to me!
GD: You shoot in different cities around the world. Is there one that surprised you when you discovered it through the project?
TS: I’ve always had a real fascination with Tokyo. I love going to Tokyo, I go there all the time, even [as] a kid I was really interested in Japan and Tokyo. I’d never been in someone’s house in Tokyo, even my friends’, so this really gave me entry into a whole other world. Japan has a very different culture in terms of bringing people in their homes, it’s a much more intimate thing so I was really honoured that people would entrust me with that. It was a really great experience!
GD: Is there a specific item of furniture or style of design that would absolutely guarantee that you wouldn’t be able to resist photographing?
TS: Oh! It doesn’t exist because my project isn’t about interior design or product design or collecting. At the end of the day, it’s about people and without the interesting person to go along with it or without a story to tell about its owner it might as well be in a museum. That being said, I do love [1980s pastel post modern furniture gurus] Memphis design, it’s just something that I personally love.
GD: And have you seen any while shooting?
TS: No, I think there’s only one Memphis piece in my book, Verbal & Yoon in Tokyo have a Memphis lamp, which I really love but you know, I’m looking in my copy now and it didn’t make the cut but I do love it! See, nothing is a guarantee!
Grace Kelsey & Kenyan, Warwick, New York
GD: You’ve shot so many different spaces, so many great, creative people, is there a personal favourite in there?
TS: Well, Karl Lagerfeld was always someone that wherever people would ask me in interviews, “Who’s your dream photo-shoot?” I would always say Karl. Then I was in Paris working on my first show, which was at Colette about a year ago, and I was telling people about this and I told Sarah from Colette [the Parisian boutique’s buyer and Art Director] who went and talked to Karl. He saw the show and the next morning I was shooting him! I think he’s the one that I was really gunning for, for the book.
GD: Intimidating or exciting?
TS: I guess a little of both!
GD: And what’s next for The Selby?
TS: The book, you know, the book is out [now] so I’m just getting started to try and get behind it. I’m really excited about it and I want to share it with people and show that a lot of love and hard work went into it. I hope people enjoy it!
The Selby is in Your Place by Todd Selby is out now published by Abrams.
- Kiki Georgiou