Photos of the Variety of Characters You’re Likely to Run Into at McDonald’s


Photographer Nolan Conway‘s project Happy Meals is all about finding unique people in one of the world’s most commonplace locations on earth: McDonald’s restaurants. With his camera in tow, he has visited 150 McDonald’s in 22 states, photographing some 180 patrons in the process.

The project was born at a McDonald’s in Napa, Idaho. Conway was using the WiFi to work on a different photo project when a man walked in open carrying a pistol. To a New Yorker, this was both new and intriguing, so he asked to take the man’s picture. Minutes later a young girl came in shoe-less, wearing a blanket instead of a jacket. As Conway puts it, “The moment I saw her, the project was born.”

Since then he’s done quite a bit of traveling to photograph the 180 subjects he’s captured thus far. When he sees a visually interesting patron, he simply walks up to them and asks if they would allow him to take their picture. Speaking to Co.Create, he explains the benefits and pitfalls of this approach:

I would occasionally watch someone for 15 minutes before deciding to photograph them. More than once I had to chase someone out to his or her car. There was no criteria by which I chose subjects; I just went off my gut, and my gut was not very decisive. In some cases, they were overly excited to participate, and others were a little bothered but would let me proceed out of politeness. Of course, the most interesting subjects usually declined.

Even so, Conway has managed to photograph some incredibly interesting characters during his travels. Here’s a selection of photos from the series:

















Conway tries to stick to rural areas when selecting his McDonald’s restaurants, mostly because that’s where he’s met the most interesting people, “you’ll get the poor, the wealthy and everyone in between,” explains Conway, “there’s nowhere else to go.”

If you visit his website you won’t find anything about Happy Meals, mainly because this began as a personal project. But now that the project has gained some momentum on the web, Conway hopes to display some of his McDonald’s photography in art shows, or maybe even a book.

To learn more about Conway and see more of his work, visit his website by clicking here.

(via The New York Times)

Image credits: Photography by Nolan Conway and used with permission.

  • bob cooley

    Odd project, but really nicely executed.

    I’m surprised that the McD’s managers let him create images in the stores, but I’m glad they did – nice stuff.

  • Dave

    He should do a followup project of photos of these same people getting their McTriple bypass surgery.

  • Froggy

    Santa Clause!!!!!
    I know him!
    I know him!

  • Mantis

    ^ Dave likes to pretend he’s never once eaten fast food.

  • Igor Ken

    really nice pictures :) cool project!

  • Christian DeBaun

    For a project called “Happy Meals”, it’s interesting to note that about 90% of the people in these photos have a neutral or depressed expression on their faces.

    Well done.

  • Burnin Biomass

    Good project… “I’m lovin it!”

  • SoMuchBadArt

    Ahhhh yes. How much we love to look down on and judge others. Thanks, I really do feel better about myself after seeing these.

  • lidocaineus

    That’s you bringing your own preconceived notions to the table. I’m not looking down on any of these people; the photos make me consider their individual stories even more than if I had just glanced at them in passing in real life.

  • Muhammad Malik

    i woould be surprised if they stopped anyone. They just taking pictures. Obviously not the same McDonalds all the time.

  • Muhammad Malik

    I wanna start one with Burger King! though that would last like 1 day.. :/

  • superheavyuser

    In only 2 of the photos the people in them actually look like they want to be photographed. Awkward.

  • downwithfakestats

    Fake stats are not needed to support the fact you caught the irony of the title.
    Cool project!

  • Lynelle Hinkley

    Photo # 2 guy – “I’m gonna kill you with this french fry..”

  • foggodyssey

    I’m just wondering if he used natural light or any kind of fill flash to get these photos because they are all very well balanced shots.

  • John Kantor

    Wow – it’s almost like being there.

  • Jbf

    Very interesting series!! Please, where can I find more?

  • ProtoWhalePig

    People actually find these interesting?

  • Joakim Bidebo

    When I read the title and saw the first photo I thought this is just one more boring project, but oh was I fooled. :)

    Really well done!

  • Matthew

    These are great! such an odd idea, but the photos manage to take a boring, plain location and make them into something very interesting. I love the dog on the roof hahaha

  • Marion Albion

    very good project. spontaneous, not many embellishments. real and sincere.
    i made something similar, buit without people- the project is called “the cabin of intimacy” featuring cabins of tram drivers in croatia

  • Neoracer Xox

    So…everyday people? SHOCKER!

  • lawl


  • riply

    All of these people look like pretty standard, normal people…

  • Piercing


  • Aleksandar Aleksić

    maybe it’s just photographer’s approach…

  • ilo photo

    2nd last picture shows the latest cellphone technology; you gotta have a cord to curl in your fingers when chattin’ up the boys!