Photographer Todd Selby’s New Book Delves Into The Homes Of Creative Families Around The World

Joseph and Morgan Leary with River at their Auckland home, from Todd Selby’s new book The Selby Comes Home. Photo / Todd Selby

In The Selby Comes Home: An Interior Design Book for Creative Families, photographer Todd Selby turns his lens on creative family homes from New York to New Zealand. In this extract from the book, he photographs Morgan and Joseph Leary, a film-maker and production designer/artist, who live by the water

“Living here, you start to find a rhythm,” says Joseph Leary.

Joseph and I are in the backyard as the tide rises into the mangrove trees.

“Everything looks different depending on the light, and the colours are always changing.”

Photo / Todd Selby
Photo / Todd Selby

It’s no surprise that Joseph is a production designer and artist, while Morgan is a film-maker and musician. Their entire home feels like an art piece with an earthy, retro-bohemian style that connects with the nature around it.

Photo / Todd Selby
Photo / Todd Selby

“The previous owners had painted everything white and gray,” says Joseph. “It just needed to be pushed back to where it belongs.”

Photo / Todd Selby
Photo / Todd Selby

“Morgan really wanted a pink bedroom. So that’s what we did. And those crazy curtains came from a film that Joseph art-directed.”

Photo / Todd Selby
Photo / Todd Selby

“It’s just, like, the same thing every day, but it’s always different. We just love that. I never get bored.”

Photo / Todd Selby
Photo / Todd Selby

Morgan fell in love with the home’s traditional Kiwi bach style.

“It’s got a classic little 1960s getaway by the sea vibe. It’s like a mirror to the childhood I had in the country. We’ll hang out and play guitar, or oh, let’s hop in the canoe and get tacos.”

Photo / Todd Selby
Photo / Todd Selby

The couple were inspired by photos of the first owners, which showed the home as it was initially built.

“There’s the original cork in the laundry, and we put some walnut ply back throughout the house, and did a pink kitchen floor.”

Photo / Todd Selby
Photo / Todd Selby

Todd Selby’s Q&A with Morgan, Joseph & River

On cake recipes, dream canoes, and bird houses.

10 minutes with LA-based photographer Todd Selby

Viva’s deputy editor Johanna Thornton quizzes Todd on the making of his new book.

Photographer Todd Selby. Photo / Bill Gentle
Photographer Todd Selby. Photo / Bill Gentle

What brought you to New Zealand for this book?

New Zealand is pretty much where I start every project. It’s got a unique culture and such creative people it’s pretty much perfect for what I do.

How did you source these amazing homes in New Zealand?

I’ve been a bunch of times and so I always start with people that I met on previous trips. Murray Bevan [founder of Showroom 22] was my main connector on this trip, I’d say he’s really plugged in on the pulse of the creative community. Also, Mikhail Gherman and Karen Walker have been huge supporters through the years and introduced me to such great people. Damaris J Coulter from The Realness has been an amazing connector and friend to me.

You’ve described some of the New Zealand homes you photographed as special and entrepreneurial — why do you say that?

I think that people in New Zealand really make it happen — if it doesn’t exist they create it — and that is a real entrepreneurial spirit.

What’s your main focus work-wise right now?

My main focus is luckily what I love to do, which is photographing people in their spaces, meaning creative types entering their worlds. Then at the end of the day picking up my kids and feeding them dinner.

You’re a father now — how many children do you have and how old are they?

I have two kids, a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old, and I think they’re chomping at the bit to take over The Selby mantle, so we’ll have to see what happens with that.

The Selby Comes Home is a reflection of your new interest in families and how they style their spaces. What inspired you about the families featured in your new book?

I think that my formula is the same whether it’s for individuals, couples, families, small businesses. It’s really about people who express themselves through their personal space in a unique and interesting way. It’s about families that are following their own path in a way that I find interesting.

Can you describe your own home?

My home is a strange one. My wife Danielle Sherman is a minimalist perfectionist and I’m a colourful, quirky, eclectic oddball. Most of the house is her vision with the exception being my home studio, which is safely behind a closed door. It’s an explosion of colour, texture, drawings, paintings and photographs — it’s a real cave and I love being in there.

What’s it like on set in these family homes? Do some take warming up and if so what’s your secret to doing so?

The first thing I do is get a tour of the home and while I’m getting the tour I kind of get the vibe of the family if I’ve never met them before — I get to know the kids, the pets, what rooms they’re excited to have me in and where they’d rather have me stay out of, and it’s about following the lead of my subjects.

How long do you spend with each family?

I’d say, on average, two to three hours.

Do you ask them to edit their belongings for the photos?

No, I never asked them to edit their belongings or clean up or arrange things in a certain way. My absolute favourite homes are the ones where they’ve obviously done nothing to prepare and I caught it unawares, if you will.

You don’t just photograph families, you interview them too. What’s that process like?

Well, I like to do a handwritten interview at the end of my photo session and for the book I also did a follow-up phone call. The phone call was what I used to make a lot of the captions in the book, it’s very conversational and informal.

Is it important to you to photograph a diverse array of families in terms of culture?

Yeah, of course, it’s absolutely critical to be as diverse as I can in terms of cultures, socioeconomic background, geography. I do my best but, of course, I could always do better.

Auckland-based artists Lissy and Rudi Robinson-Cole’s house was a colourful palate cleanser — how was your time with them?

I mean crocheting grandparents with the neon pink Christmas tree, it’s like I’ve gone to heaven.

And how was your day with designer Mahsa Willis in Titirangi?

Amazing, I just wish that I had more time to explore Titirangi and hang with Mahsa. It really seems like a magical place.

It’s been 10 years in between books — what’s been happening since?

That’s where the 8-year-old and 6-year-old kids come in.

How satisfying is it for you when a new book comes out?

I’m a total book nerd, so having a physical embodiment of what I’ve been working so hard to do digitally really pleases me and in a way — it scratches an itch.

How have you seen your beat or your offering change with the rise of social media and image sharing?

I mean, I started in 2008, visiting homes and spaces of creatives that I’m interested in, and I’m doing the exact same thing in 2023, so that’s pretty cool.

Is it a lot harder to control where your images end up? And does that bother you?

I love the freedom of the open internet. I’m a real blogger at heart, so having my own website where people can download the images and use them in their mood boards and they can have another life really means a lot to me. I find the walled gardens of social media companies and their apps to be lacklustre in that way. I look back on the early days of blogging and link pages and surfing the Internet and think those are really the golden times.

Do you have any advice for budding photographers?

I think that photography is a great hobby, passion and job. The thing is if it’s gonna be your job, you have to treat it like a job.

Extract from The Selby Comes Home: An Interior Design Book for Creative Families (Abrams; $108; Hardcover), available from April 16, 2024.

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