Throwing Camera Photographs

By Matthew Carson   Thursday August 21, 2014

By making life more interesting for others, we may indirectly help to alleviate the human condition. We up your aesthetic quality of life, we up your creativity. We celebrate the ordinary.- N.E.Thing Company

Throwing Camera Photographs is a book that I came across a few years ago courtesy of David Senior in the MoMA library. It was great. I realized that before the Panono camera, there were the thrown camera photographs of Iain Baxter&. I loved the book so much that I tracked down its author in an attempt to gain a copy for the library.

It took a lot of research and I encountered a lot of dead-ends in trying to find a copy. In the process I managed to become friends with the author – the  &man – and his brilliant personal archivist at the time Adam Lauder. One day Iain and his beautiful wife Louise came to visit the ICP library and I gave them a tour of the School and the Museum. On speaking with &man I soon realised that even he didn’t own a copy of this great little book himself, but he eventually tracked down and found a copy and donated that copy to the ICP library on another visit to see us. Thrown Camera Photographs is now one of our most important treasures. 

This publication was produced on the occasion of an exhibition of photo art by Iain Baxter/N.E. Thing Co. at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Letheridge, Alberta, Canada, March 11-April 8 1979, with the financial assistance of the Canada Coundil. © Iain Baxter. Cover Photo by Martha Miller.[The ICP library copy is signed by Iain Baxter& - Iain Baxter changed his name to Iain Baxter& in 2005]. Thrown Camera Photographs is part of a series which includes: Vancouver Beauty Spots, Reflections Lethbridge and Ever Ready.

In Clive Phillpot’s publication Booktrek, Selected essays on Artists’ Books (JRP, 2013) the introduction is titled “from N.E. Thing Co. to Anything goes?”. It is interesting – and really not that surprising – that Clive who has been the great advocate of artists’ books for over forty years and who was once the director of the MoMA library from 1977 to 1994, begins his book with mention of the N.E.Thing Co. as trailblazers in artists’ books and conceptual art. The N.E. Thing Co. (aka Net Co. Ltd.) really did make some of the most important and challenging artists’ books long before, well, almost everybody. The N.E.Thing Company, established in 1966, created some of the earliest photoconceptual works to display a tendency to use photography to document “idea-works and their sites, as language games and thematic inventories and as reflective investigations of the social and architectural landscape.”

Established in 1969 the N.E. Thing Co. began their role as a key catalyst and influence for photoconceptualism. A company statement from 1968 read: “It is the visual Unknown that challenges the N.E. Thing researchers. In 1970 the N.E. Thing Co. participated in the landmark exhibition of Conceptual art “Information” at MoMA.

Iain Baxter (born. 1936) creates work that focuses on an interdisciplinary practice and the using of photography, along with site-specific performances and installation and he is considered as being a precursor to the Vancouver School (Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas, Rodney Graham, etc).

Iain legally changed his name to Iain Baxter& (pronounced Baxterand) in 2005 and he continues to push boundaries and play with the art world and its parallel world of consumer culture. There is still much of the Iain Baxter& photographic relationship that needs to be investigated. For instance in the early 1980s after the demise of N.E.Thing he was employed by Polaroid for 2 years to travel around America and document using the polaroid camera – making great artists’ books using actual polaroid images. Iain has this quite amazing online catalogue raisonne.

Right: Phillip Block, ICP Deputy Director for Programs & Director of Education proudly displaying an amazing photobook that even Martin Parr doesn’t own  – the Thrown Camera Photographs book by Iain Baxter&.

In 1968 the N.E. Thing Co. developed a system of issuing aesthetic judgments on sundry items experienced throughout daily life: places, objects, and other artists’ work. They were classified as either ACTs, short for Aesthetically Claimed Things, or ARTs, short for Aesthetically Rejected Things. The N.E. Thing Co. photographed these items and then placed a seal of approval or disapproval on the printed image. An accompanying certificate was made for each claimed or rejected item, stating that it had or had not met “the stringent requirements of sensitivity information as set forth by the N.E. Thing Co.”

Matthew Carson is a Librarian and Archivist at the International Center of Photography [ICP] in New York. Information. He is one of the committee members of the
Contemporary Artists’ Book Conference at the New York Art Book Fair [NYABF] and is also a co-founder of the 10×10 Photobook organization. In 2013 he was a curator of the book component of the ICP Triennial: A Different Kind of Order. InformationInformation. As a photography enthusiast and bibliomaniac he is the editor and a writer for the ICP library blog, Monsters & Madonnas.

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday August 20, 2014

By Peggy Roalf   Tuesday August 19, 2014

By Peggy Roalf   Monday August 18, 2014

Older Posts