Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Things Come Apart by Todd McLellan

276 pieces = one little red wagon.

Wagons, typewriters, digital cameras, microwaves. . .  Todd McLellan’s book Things Come Apart: a teardown manual for modern living is a photo documentation of fifty such things and their components.

McLellan disassembled each object and laid its numerous pieces out in an orderly arrangement. Taking an object apart took days. Positioning each element in an artistic composition took even longer. He photographed the components, dropped them off of a platform, and photographed them again as they were falling, freezing each frame.
Pages in this oversize book fold out to reveal an impressive four page spread of an upright piano being dropped from a platform in a theatrical sequence. A compositional arrangement of the piano's components, all 1,842 of them, is on the flip side of the fold out. Thought provoking essays by modern innovators are interwoven with McLellan's photographic genius. A former software engineer describes a “tinkering” program for children, a ceramics conservator recounts sorting out the jumbled shards of an ancient Chinese vase, and an inventor explains disassembly using thermodynamics.

Things Come Apart brings to our attention the intricacy of three dimensional design. You can pore over the pictures in this book, but you won't find Waldo. What you will find is fascinating photography and a unique perspective on mechanical design. You may never look at the elements in your environment in the same way again!

No matter if you are building a jigsaw puzzle or fixing a broken DVD player, understanding how things fit together and learning to fix them can be empowering.  This book inspired me to take apart my own discarded computer tower. I'm still trying to fix my broken three hole punch. Taking a thing apart is not as easy as it looks. Putting it back together is sometimes impossible.

If you like to tinker check out Unscrewed: Salvage and Reuse Motors, Gears, Switches, and More from Your Old Electronics by Ed Sobey at the Virginia Beach Public Library for photos and tips on how to take things apart.

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