Mark Seliger heads up McDonald’s portrait project
Is McDonald’s the tie that binds? Editorial and portrait photographer Mark Seliger created a documentary-style portrait series for the restaurant chain that highlights both the diversity and the commonality of the restaurant’s patrons.
The idea for the series evolved during a brainstorming session between Seliger and ad agency We Are Unlimited. “We put out there this idea that everybody has something in common,” he says, “and the idea that you can go into a McDonald’s and there’s an incredible unity and diversity.”
Seliger’s task was straightforward: Spend a day at each of three McDonald’s stores in San Francisco, Chicago, and Queens, New York, approach patrons for portraits, and get to know their stories. Who were they? How did they feel about McDonald’s? What brings them to the restaurant on the regular? That information is shared in the image captions on the ad campaign’s website, which is headlined “We have more in common than we think.”
“Ninety percent of everybody we approached was excited about the prospect of being in a portrait. It was a very warm experience,” Seliger says.
For most of the portraits Seliger relied on available light, supplemented occasionally with panel lights for balance, and in a few instances blocking out the restaurant’s incandescent lighting when it mixed with direct sunlight. “At first I thought it might be a little challenging to isolate areas that I thought would be photogenic, but all the stores we went into had a unique look to them, so that actually became pretty easy. We got there early in the morning and shot all day, and we found great environments all through the day, so that was great. We didn’t stay too long on any one portrait. We could move pretty quickly.”
What Seliger relished about the work was returning to his photographic roots. “When I got interested in photography, it was documentary portraiture,” he says. “My intention here was to recreate that aspect of my passion.”
Amanda Arnold is associate editor of Professional Photographer.