Todd Selby Brings it All Together for New York Life
Todd Selby is known for creating portraits that are full of energy and full of life. They’re rarely staged, if ever, and offer a window in the lives of the people he photographs, and his clients love him for it. They help to bring an authentic connection between their product and the subject, and Todd has found some incredible partnerships to help facilitate this work. But his newest partner was looking for something a little different. New York Life, the insurance giant, wanted something with structure, and they wanted a lot of it. They asked Todd to not only create their latest campaign but also construct an entire image library for them. It was so no small feat. “It was pretty gargantuan,” says Todd. “The idea was people in their natural environments but then kind of them coming together for a portrait, or the moment before the portrait. We used new talent for almost every shot and new situations and new families.” It was hundreds of talent in dozens and dozens of set ups, one right after another. And it was awesome.
To strike the right tone, Todd’s team took to the street and recruited subjects from real life. “Street casting” has the benefit of discovering how subjects interact right from the beginning, but also helps save time and energy when on set: real families and friends already have a solid rapport. “We used real families and extended families and lots of real friends. So we tried to have that camaraderie rather than constructing everything,” Todd explains “We had so little time, so for something this big, sometimes 18 to 19 scenarios in a day, we had to have that instant connection with people. Having that comfort that’s the most important.” Going to such a real place with their subjects meant that Todd was able to maximize his time during shooting which was crucial, especially considering how much work there was to do.
Faced with the incredible volume of assets Todd was expected to produce, he dove right in. Thanks to his own work ethic and the people he surrounds himself with, he and his team were able to complete the project on target and with aplomb. “I really loved it. I like being productive. It was really a lot on the production,” says Todd. “I have a great producer, Elle Sullivan Wilson, she’s my long time producer and she had a big challenge in terms of putting all the pieces together so that everyone was ready. It was quite a big production. We did it.”