Tod McLellan is a Canadian photographer with a hobby that is the most unusual of all. His father was a TV repairman, and his mother was an electrical technician. This resulted in a piece of equipment lying open here and there all the time. Todd eventually became fascinated with the internal mechanical workings of everyday objects like watches, coffee grinders, salt and pepper mills, basically anything that could be torn down to pieces.
The 39-year-old photographer has turned his brought his childhood hobby to life with his latest photography series “Things Come Apart.” He tears down things like old Macintosh computers, watches, toasters and lays out every piece in a stunning arrangement and photographs all of them in one shot.
The aim of his current photography series is to celebrate the beauty of old mechanical technology and to get the physical satisfaction that does not come from the new electronics.
“As I’m taking it apart, if I press this button, I know it presses that lever, and you can actually see that happen.” With the electronics this is different. “You press the button and its goes into the circuit board, and then it makes something on the screen do something. You can’t really place how that happened.”
Disassembling a product can take over a day and then arranging the pieces may take another day or two as he organizes the parts in groups based on similarity. When more complex electronics like a Walkman is involved, it is even harder and time-consuming to keep the tiny parts organized.
McLellan enjoys learning of the hidden complexity of very things that appear very simple otherwise. The largest project that McLellan has done was a piano that took five days to disassemble and organize.
Most of the products that he had disassembled were simple but a few, like the Nintendo NDS was a bit more complicated due to its two screens with lots of layers. He particularly loved doing simple things like a toaster which comes with a large variety of small parts. More complex ones like old typewriters looked less like a piece of equipment and more like an artwork.
Todd McLellan’s work brings out the beauty in the simplest of daily life objects, making one appreciate the complexity of everything around.
People walk by and say ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know that was in there,” he explains. “I kind of took that for granted. People don’t know what’s inside. They just use things.
A book “Things Come Apart” based on Todd’s work has been published by Thames & Hudson that can be purchased.