’Things Come Apart’ by Todd McLellan

Things Come Apart
In 'Things Come Apart', Canadian photographer Todd McLellan disassembles machines, arranges the parts meticulously in groups and photographs the inventory, turning them into works of art
(Image credit: Todd McLellan)

What do you call a man who disassembles machines, categorises every piece, arranges them meticulously, then photographs the inventory? In his native Canada, Todd McLellan is a successful photographer, whose subjects include rural landscapes, motorcycles and chickens. But in 'Things Come Apart: A Teardown Manual for Modern Living' he seems more like a mechanic with OCD.

Still, his innate talent for composition is what makes these still-lifes so compelling, with their rows upon rows of screws and coils, shiny strips and candy-coloured copper. How do you fit all those parts into a tiny digital watch? Is there really that much going on in a video projector? Who donated their two-seater light aircraft to be disemboweled (over a three-page gatefold) like a shelled oyster?

Apart from the sheer pleasure they bring, McLellan's images also earn respect for the people who fix these intricate contraptions, many of which (a Sony Walkman, a 1964 Smith Corona typewriter) haven't been made for decades - at least not like they used to. Then you turn the page and those same pieces are captured in mid air, mid-explosion; McLellan's passion for blowing stuff up is second only to his affection for photography.

'Things Come Apart' pays homage to machinists and tinkerers with a series of essays by the pros, on subjects such as boat-building and computer-repair. A life of tinkering, even on objects long obsolete, is not for naught, it would seem. The manual is published by Thames & Hudson on 20 May, but you can order it in advance.

Things Come Apart

In the book's second chapter, focused on medium-sized objects, he takes apart all 147 components of a 1960s Oster blender

(Image credit: Todd McLellan)

Things Come Apart

A 1980s Raleigh bicycle in the chapter dedicated to extra-large objects. Component count: 893

(Image credit: Todd McLellan)

Things Come Apart

McLellan's innate talent for composition is what makes these still-lifes so compelling, with their rows upon rows of screws and coils. This 1990s Homelite chainsaw had 268 pieces

(Image credit: Todd McLellan)

Things Come Apart

This Optimus keyboard from 1999 - comprising 178 pieces - is in the 'large' chapter

(Image credit: Todd McLellan)

Things Come Apart

Many of the objects - like the 1990 Macintosh Classic on the cover - have been obsolete for decades

(Image credit: Todd McLellan)

Things Come Apart

Some items store curious contents, like this Pyrene fire extinguisher made in 1999, with 28 components

(Image credit: Todd McLellan)

Things Come Apart

A detail of the 558 parts of a 2005 Canon digital video camera...

(Image credit: Todd McLellan)

Things Come Apart

... and a Sony digital SLR

(Image credit: Todd McLellan)

Things Come Apart

The Victorinox Swiss Army knife is one of the few items whose components are somewhat predictable

(Image credit: Todd McLellan)