Making Everyday Activities Trippy

The Photo Blog
July 29 2013 2:02 PM

Making Everyday Activities Trippy

Mike Mandel
Left: Flying, 1980. Right: Dancing to TV, 1982.

Mike Mandel

Photographer Mike Mandel creates playful, trippy images that combine everyday activities with bursts of color and light that track his subjects’ motions. For his project and subsequent book, Making Good Time, which took the better part of the 1980s to complete, Mandel plays off of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth’s efficiency motion studies from the early 1900s. The Gilbreths’ purpose for creating the images was to analyze and refine workers’ movements to streamline productivity. They captured these motions in a still image they called the chronocyclegraph by attaching pulsing lights to the workers’ hands and making 3-D, time-lapse images. The Gilbreths’ intent was to improve the lives of workers by reducing waste and fatigue on the job. In fact, their findings were also used by the military and in hospitals to maximize worker potential. 

Mandel’s project tracks movement in a similar way but is far more lighthearted. As Mandel says in the introduction to his book, he wants to “ ... completely reevaluate day-to-day life, distorting the Gilbreth imperative to suit my needs: More waste=more fun." Via email, Mandel wrote about his intention: “I am not at all interested in efficiency or ‘making good time.’ I am interested in having a good time ... I think the essence of this work was to make fun of this obsession with efficiency is an effort to re-humanize our experiences of everyday life.

Mandel tracked a variety of daily household movements: unloading a refrigerator, watching TV, making piles of sandwiches. He also tracked a few less-common movements like break dancing. In his version of the Gilbreths’ chronocyclegraph, Mandel used bicycle lamps that a computer-engineer friend made blink 20 times per second. He painted the lights with translucent hobby paints in order to differentiate movements created with the right and left hands. He also visited several robotics research facilities, where he recorded robots performing random actions, such as lighting Hanukkah candles.

Mike Mandel
Wrapping Sandwiches, 1986

Mike Mandel

Mike Mandel
Kids Clean Desks, 1986

Mike Mandel

Mike Mandel
Changing Diapers, 1985

Mike Mandel

Mike Mandel
Break Dancing, 1985

Mike Mandel

Advertisement

Via phone, Mandel spoke of his desire, with this and other projects, to return to a lack of control over time: “In this project I have accessed the [Gilbreth] archive ... to identify images they made that have an aesthetic quality that I believe undermines their project of efficiency. Much of my work is based on ... recontextualizing images so their meaning is changed.“

Mandel is currently at work on a project with Chantal Zakari relating to the Watertown, Mass., manhunt of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after the Boston Marathon bombing.

Mike Mandel
Emptying the Fridge, 1985

Mike Mandel

Mike Mandel
Robot, 1984

Mike Mandel

Mike Mandel
Robot Lights Chanukah Candles, 1985

Mike Mandel

Mike Mandel
Watching TV, 1987

Mike Mandel

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 6:23 PM Bryan Cranston Reenacts Baseball’s Best Moments to Promote the Upcoming Postseason
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.