06/03/2011 08:18 pm ET Updated Aug 03, 2011

Photographer Shows 'Disassembly' At Its Finest

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By: Brett Myers

Canadian photographer Todd McLellan is like me, he collects things -- old typewriters, Ma Bell era analog telephones, 35mm film cameras -- stuff he appreciates for its beauty and craftsmanship, but doesn't use, because who shoots on film anymore? I'm kidding.

McLellan has been disassembling these various pieces of outmoded technology, and then organizing and photographing the dozens, if not hundreds, of wires, screws, etc. The items dismembered almost look like exploded diagrams.


Photo Credit: Todd McLellan/Turnstyle

This work is an interesting departure from the uber skilled sleek car photography he's done for luxury car makers like BMW and Lexus. We interviewed McLellan about how this work came about. Check that out below, and be sure to click through the slideshow at the bottom. The horizontal crop (above) doesn't do these shots justice.

Brett Myers: How did you get started on this project?

Todd McLellan:  The first item I took apart was the phone. I started by shooting as if it were a product assembly diagram. I set everything out on different levels of glass plates and shot that. It was kind of boring, and needed a lot of digital retouching. From there, I began organizing all of the elements onto a single neat assemblage, which seemed like a pretty natural progression. I didn't like the phone at first, because it was just too simple. I decided to disassemble a couple more objects and that's when it started to grow on me. The camera was amazing as a second project.

Dropping them from the sky came after all the laid out projects were complete. It was a pretty fun technical challenge and a lot different feeling from the laid out image. I felt in a way that it was setting the pieces free. I think in the end it all stemmed from my hands on background, my parents never threw anything out, they fixed everything.

BAM: This work seems pretty different than your gorgeous car photography and studio shots of motorcycles, etc. How does it fit in?

TML: With Disassembly, I wanted to create something less contrived. The subject matter is beautiful in design, but they're not necessarily new and clean items. I wanted to let go of the commercial look, which is a lot of what I shoot. This project allowed me to part from a lot of the other shots. I really do think the subject calls for its own way of handling the lighting and space.

BAM: These devices still work, but they probably don't have much of a life because most of us have abandoned them for newer technologies. Even though you're tearing them to pieces, do you feel like you're honoring these objects?

TML: I had this conversation with a friend the other day. Sadly I'm the first to jump ship to newer technologies. The typewriter for instance makes no sense at all to have in today's world. The shame is that things are not built like that anymore. Twenty years from now, if I hadn't taken that apart it would have been still working and able to do the job it was meant for. The computer I am typing on right now will be in a landfill if not a recycling depot in less than five I'm pretty sure.

Am I honoring them? I hope so.

BAM: The typewriter has a billion pieces - I counted. Was it frustrating deconstructing it and creating order out of the pieces, or did it get at some OCD itch you've been trying to scratch?

TML: I joke that I have undiagnosed OCD and ADD, which means that I am constantly fighting with myself on a project like this, and ultimately all that self-fighting makes me feel like I have multiple personality disorder. It's pretty confusing.

Anyway, it's great when things hum along and the composition just comes together, but when I have to work and rework the pieces, I just have to walk away for a bit. This work must itch something, because in the end I get major satisfaction from seeing these pieces completed.

BAM: Anything else you want to say?

TML: After looking up at my long winded answers, not really.

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