Shameless Living

I love looking at how other people live. Given the opportunity, I’d happily walk through neighborhoods at dusk, walking slowly past people’s houses, right when they turn on the lights but haven’t yet closed the curtains, taking a peek into how they had their lives arranged in whatever room I could see. Over at Speak Up, I got to run a “What’s on your desk” thread there, allowing me to get my fix of other designers workspaces. When I worked at IDEO, I was actually paid to follow an ethnographer into a house to look around and observe how other people lived. So you’ll have to appreciate that when I came across The Selby, it was like crack to me.

Copyright Todd Selby

Copyright Todd Selby

If you’ve not yet heard of The Selby from the recent NY Times piece, (the older New York one, a recent feature in PDN) or Kottke’s mention of him a year or so ago, Todd Selby shoots people and interiors he finds interesting, and of the things they find interesting. And it turns out, that combination is truly wonderful. It’s hard to pull out single photographs because the entire shoot he’ll do with someone or a couple is like an intimate couple of hours you’re spending with them, through Todd’s eyes.

What is even better than it just being ordinary people that he shoots, is that they’re really quite shameless in how they live, and in what they’re interested in. So the subjects and their environments are truly rich and compelling. It is a great inspiration to spend time immersing yourself in these worlds that Todd has shot.

Copyright Todd Selby

Copyright Todd Selby

For me, one of the things that makes The Selby so special is that the site came out of a personal interest, which turned Todd into something of a sensation. Following his interest and passion, in a simple and honest way, ended up being incredibly interesting to a huge number of people. Its essentially how Todd recognizes the same thing in his subjects and how he picks them.

Not entirely satisfied with the still image of interesting people’s interesting looking lives, I felt like I’d found a new improved form of crack when I came across The Scout Magazine. In particular, three short movies on really compelling people. Again, each movie shows people shamelessly pursing their interests in a unique way, the only way they know how perhaps, but it makes it all the more interesting to observe nonetheless. Obviously I found The Scout by finding the Roman and Williams movie, but their recent short on The Mast Brothers is quite delicious. Even though I don’t like chocolate.

I wrote this before reading Victor Müller’s piece on inspiration. I’d add these sites as places of inspiration that help me get unstuck. In a way, it’s their celebration of these people embracing their differences that makes them so great to enjoy. If Todd Selby was going to come and spend time with you, what do you think he’d photograph?

As Todd Selby says in his interview in PDN Magazine, and I’m rather enjoying it, “Shameless living is what I’m into.”

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