Spark

Photographer takes apart everyday gadgets to reveal their inner workings

New book of beautiful photography features 50 everyday items, from a Blackberry to an Amazon Echo, with each component neatly laid out with precision.

Todd McLellan says we shouldn't be afraid to open up our tech

Amazon Echo, 2014. Component count: 50 (© 2013 and 2019 Todd McLellan)
Listen13:29

Todd McLellan likes to take things apart. For the past decade, the Canadian photographer has been disassembling everyday objects, artfully arranging their internal pieces, and then taking beautiful images of the components.

Photographer Todd McLellan

In his 2013 debut book of photography, Things Come Apart, McLellan focused on the inner workings of older design classics like a grandfather clock and an accordion. "The first one started with an old rotary phone, and then it went all the way up to an airplane," McLellan told Spark host Nora Young. "So I first started with mechanical objects, but then it felt unfinished."

In his new book, Things Come Apart 2.0: A Teardown Manual for Modern Living, McLellan has turned his eye toward more modern tech objects, like a 3D printer, a game console and a smartphone.

"I always liked the idea of understanding how things work. And more than not, it would be great to repair things rather than toss them out."

McLellan believes that people can learn how to repair digital tech objects themselves. "You can almost fix anything," he said. "Everything comes in components and if you're able to order them, you're able to fix it."

Perhaps surprisingly, McLellan says the Amazon Echo was easy for him to fix. "Basically, you pull off a rubber seal and then it exposes the screws or joints, and it kind of slid apart magically, which was beautiful."

Digital Sony SLR Camera, 2012. Component count: 580 (© 2013 and 2019 Todd McLellan)

McLellan hopes his readers will come away with a better understanding of how their everyday tech works. "It boggles my mind the years of research and development that goes into creating what we have in front of us," he said. "If you understand them better, you can get more out of them."

Hair Straighteners, 1989. Component count: 91 (© 2013 and 2019 Todd McLellan)

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.