Making Everyday Activities Trippy

Behold
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

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 4:33 PM Walmart Is Killing the Rest of Corporate America in Solar Power Adoption
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 4:14 PM Planet Money Uncovers One Surprising Reason the Internet Is Sexist
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.