Digital Art Taking apart, by Gabi Mensahe

Published on August 15th, 2013 | by Ido Kenan


Photographer Takes Apart Vintage Gadgets

One of the gadget geeks’ favorite porn genres is Teardown, where gadgets are taken apart and disassembled to their basic components, then photographed. In the “Taking apart” project, Israeli photographer Gabi Menashe does that to old gadgets – including a rotary dial phone, a Sony Walkman, an alarm clock and a Minolta Hi-Matic-E camera – all of which he cleans, shoots, disassembles, organizes neatly and shoots again, to create an anatomical poster showing the gadget next to its organs.

Gabi Menashe. Photo by Nechama Eliezer

“I have two clear rules: I never break anything, it’s only what I can take apart; and It’s important that the product is in one piece beforehand, because I also shoot it before taking it apart,” says Menashe, who works for Israeli web-magazine Xnet. The project was born of his longing to his former job as a photojournalist, and his hobby of wandering around flea markets. “I succeed in finding those products really cheap – tens of Shekels [ten Shekels are about $2.80 – Ed.] And disassembling them is fascinating, because there’s the philosophical aspect and the curiousity aspect. You see how complex the technology was compared to today’s all-electronic technology – the mechanics of the products, you can’t believe how many springs they have, and you know that if one is missing, it won’t work. It astonishes me every time, how it was even designed in such a small casing, be it a clock, a camera etc. The philosophical aspect is that it makes me feel I’m giving the products a life for the last time, before they’re discarded. It’s really nice to arrange them in some composition and then shoot .By the way, I don’t try, and I doubt I could, reassemble them”.

Ten photos have been posted to Taking apart’s site, and Menashe keeps searching for more gadgest in flea markets, as well as second-hand sites and Facebook: “Now I’m working on a typewriter, which I will be disassembling soon, it’s up next, and there’s a VCR”. On the site he writes: “We may live in the age of smartphones and digital books and every day we are amazed by some new application, but believe me when I tell you, nothing beats the sense of awe you fell after taking apart an old watch and realizing what really made it tick. I can’t even begin to describe the admiration I have for the people who designed and built such intricate devices”. Menashe didn’t start the project as a commercial venture, but he was delighted when people who liked the posters started ordering copies of them.

Taking apart, by Gabi Mensahe

Taking apart, by Gabi Mensahe (1)

Taking apart, by Gabi Mensahe (2)

Taking apart, by Gabi Mensahe (3)

Menashe doesn’t view his project as a part of the geeky trend: “I don’t go for the thing everybody’s talking about and show its inner workings. It’s important for me to go for the vintage, for things people saw at home, like old cameras, something I, as a photographer, have a strong connection to. It’s porn, absolutely, but not because it’s trendy and geeky. I’m fascinated with how it’s built”.

So you’re intentionally, maybe defiantly, not going to disassemble new gadgets.
“No, no, it has to be mechanical, something that makes another thing work, not some electronic chip which is the core of the gadget where you can’t see what’s happening inside. When you take apart an old alarm clock, you can see some engineer planned how this button will move this hand and this will mobe that, and if any part is missing it won’t work. But I don’t think I will disassemble an iPhone – it’s all two chips and a processor. No, ain’t gonna happen”.

Originally published in Haaretz

About the Author

Ido Kenan is founder of Room 404, a longtime Digital Culture journalist and a raiser of two cats

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