This paper unveils mutually constituent material, visual and metaphorical expressions of encounters between the human and the mechanical. It investigates circumstances and ways in which these expressions have come into existence, and captured and mobilised new forms of knowing and acting. The paper explores firstly, how certain ‘orienting frames of reference’ and associated ‘experimental systems’ have managed to materialise around the body-machine and penetrate theory and praxis; and, secondly, what visual and textual sources related to a vocational school reveal about where and how the body-machine has come to operate in education, industry and science. The paper thereby analyses photographs not only as media presenting, representing and interrogating common thought and practice but rather as agents adding further layers to networks of meaning around the body-machine. It shows how the body-machine in metaphorical, material and visual ways became a key element of dynamic mental maps underlying educational practices and research.