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The Selby is in Your Place

An interview with the Internet's Peeping Todd

by Laura Neilson in Culture on 31 March 2010

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If a picture tells a thousand words, then consider Todd Selby a visual raconteur. Since the summer of 2008, the Orange County, CA-born, NYC-based photographer has shown an expanding and eclectic cast of creative characters—artists, musicians, writers, designers and the like—in their private homes on his website The Selby, an online Architectural Digest for the hipster set.

With a penchant for exploring real-life spaces and the personalities behind them, Selby chooses subjects whose domestic habitats are no less colorful than those of fantastic fiction. From funky, cluttered studios in New York's Lower East Side to elegant and polished Parisian apartments and rustic hideaways near the beach, Selby's project has made him a houseguest in residences around the world.

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His new book, "The Selby Is in Your Place," is a lush, 250-plus page collection featuring 33 of these enviable abodes—most of which have never been shown on the site before. Through Selby's vivid lens, subjects like Karl Lagerfeld, Purple Magazine's Olivier Zahm, model Erin Wasson, and Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler offer voyeurs spectacular peeks into their fashionable homes, where the relationship between personal style and interior space is most strikingly reflected.

Here, Selby talks to us about putting the book together, his own aesthetic preferences, and his dream shoot.

How did you choose what to include in the book?

It was hard to choose what shoots to put in and it took a lot of planning with my editor. I knew that I wanted most of the shoots in the book to be never before seen, so that meant that I needed to do a lot of shoots exclusively for the book. I did a lot of traveling and a lot of shooting, and kept my favorite shoots just for the book. And then after, we looked over those shoots and tried to include some of my favorites that had already run on TheSelby.com.

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Is there a particular aesthetic that you tend to gravitate toward?

I tend to not like minimalists. I like maximalists and you can definitely see that preference in the people I chose to be in the book.

In Lesley Arfin's intro, she describes a kind of envy we all tend to feel toward other people's lives. Did envy come into play when choosing your subject's homes?

No, not really. I tend to pick my subjects based on inspiration rather than a sense of personal envy.

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When you go into a subject's home, do you do it solo?

Almost all of the shoots were done by me solo style. The only time I bring someone is if is the space is very challenging in terms of lighting, or if it is part of an editorial assignment, like Helena [Christensen] for Vogue Paris.

For a while it felt like "nesting" had negative connotations—becoming boring, a homebody, domesticated, etc.—but now that association seems to have shifted.

Staying in is the new going out.

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What's your favorite room in a house?

The living room. It has no real purpose and it's just there for show, usually. Therefore its purpose is often more artistic, than purely functional.

Since Karl Lagerfeld's a photographer also, did he dictate much of the shoot?

Karl is the man. He was 100% supportive of me and my project. Being a photographer himself was part of the reason perhaps that he was willing to take the time and open his home to my project.

Whose home do you wish you could shoot, but can't?

Good question, I like this. I would shoot Napoleon in his island prison of Elba the night before he escaped.

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If you could swipe any piece of artwork or furniture from one of your subject's homes for yourself, what would it be?

The Neistat Brothers' "Juicy" couch of course.

To get the book, visit Amazon.

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