The Boy Scouts of America are hurting from declining membership and high-profile lawsuits over gays within the ranks, and Fast Company recently asked if great design could bring the Scouts into the 21st century (short answer: probably not). Perhaps the BSA should dispense with the mainstream altogether, take a card from photographer Todd Baxter, and just go weird.

Baxter has shot commercially for giant retailer Claire’s, as well as the band Spoon, but it’s his personal work that’s the most strangely resonant. Owl Scouts, for example, has been described as Wes Anderson meets Salvador Dali, and that’s as good a description as any. Baxter builds worlds that are slightly askew-okay, sometimes more than slightly-and entirely changes how you’ll look at a Cub Scout standing in a field.

Owl Scouts began life as a series of single images, but Baxter was living in Chicago at the time and rooming with a graphic novelist. Influenced by the pages, he began to see the images as frames in narrative story, and the project grew. “I still wanted to keep that feeling of mystery,” he says, “but it was fun to tell a bigger story than just the single image could. So the project evolved. It was the most ambitious thing I’d ever done.”


Now living in Los Angeles, Baxter has a background in painting, sculpture, embroidery, and even taxidermy, all of which seem to influence his oeuvre. He went on to an equally fantastical series called Project Astoria, which looks to the future. One might suggests Wes Anderson meets Stanley Kubrick, but a fairer approach is to say it’s simply Todd Baxter.

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