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The Smithsonian regularly holds “traveling exhibitions,” and this month is jam packed with many openings. Last September 3, “Things Come Apart” opened at the Upcountry History Museum, Greenville, SC.

Featuring the photography of Todd McLellan, the exhibit showcases what modern things like gadgets and machinery look like when taken apart. Todd’s photographic vision basically is to disassemble things that we use on a daily basis, including bikes, laptops, cellphones, and even “older” things like typewriters.

Previously published in a book of the same title, “Things Come Apart” is described by the Smithsonian as “extraordinary photographs” that “reveals the inner workings of common, everyday possessions.” The original book consists photos of 50 objects comprised by 21,959 individual parts.

What’s amazing about Todd’s still life photography is not just that he disassembles them but that he also meticulously arranges each part painstakingly, creating an almost infographic-like feel to the images, minus the labels.

Here’s a video to give you an idea:

We learned that Todd takes hours to arrange the disassembled objects in a specific order – the order in which they were taken apart. This is a perfect mix of using both the left and right brains – the style and eye of an artist juxtaposes with the logic and precision of a scientist. Other images have the deconstructed objects captured mid-motion as they all fall to the ground.

Two-seater Light Aircraft — Component Count: 7,580

Bicycle — Component Count: 893

Smartphone — Component Count: 120

Lensatic Compass — Component Count: 33

DVD Player — Component Count: 195

Flip Clock — Component Count: 426

Handheld GPS — Component Count: 42

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Laptop Computer — Component Count: 639

Mantel Clock — Component Count: 59

Piano — Component Count: 1,842

Power Drill — Component Count: 216

Swiss Army Knife — Component Count: 38

Typewriter — Component Count: 621

Mechanical Watch — Component Count: 130

In an interview with Buzzfeed, the artist has cited his childhood as the catalyst for the project, when he was a child “smashing Hot Wheels cars with a hammer to find out what the interior really looked like.” By 2009 he did the project as he said he has always been curious with how things tick.

“I felt it necessary to carry this out through my photography,” he said. “Through a series of tests that resembled an ‘assembly diagram’, it failed. I then laid them out flatly and felt that inner peace. What was most unexpected was how something that looks so simple can be so unbelievably complex on the inside.”

While the book had 50 objects, the exhibit has 39 photos plus 4 disassembled objects, and some videos and even an activity kit so you can try it for yourself.

After the South Carolina stint, the exhibit will go on a 12-city national tour.

For more information, visit or like his Facebook page.

Thanks for reading!

h/t: Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service (2), Buzzfeed, Colossal

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