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Charlie Kwai, No.38 McDonald’s zine
Courtesy Charlie Kwai and Hato Press

Photos that show the omnipotence of McDonald’s in all our lives

Charlie Kwai’s new zine No. 38 McDonald’s is a witty and poignant homage to the ‘nation’s favourite’ convenience cuisine

Photographer Charlie Kwai didn’t consciously intend to make a project about McDonald’s, but it’s a testament to the brand’s total ubiquity that the fast food chain has permeated his archive. Delving through past work in search of “patterns, collections and stories”, the recurring presence of McDonald’s started to become clear. The famous ‘golden arches’ are omnipresent, homogenising high streets all over the globe, so perhaps it’s not surprising that they have infiltrated the work of a photographer so particularly engaged with place, street life, and aleatoric encounters with people he meets. “McDonald’s has just always been there,” Kwai tells Dazed, “punctuating my days wherever I find myself, at home and abroad too. Going mostly unnoticed.”

“I’m always drawn to our consumption habits. McDonald’s is ingrained in our social identity and sits at the pinnacle of consumption,” he explains in a conversation over email. “Fast food convenience says so much about the lives many of us lead and why McDonald’s exists – and will exist – for as long as people lack time to think.” 

Just as the spectre of Maccy D’s has encroached into Kwai’s archive of imagery, the fast food behemoth is also likely to occupy a shadowy presence in our own psychic landscape in some shape or form. Thinking about the place it holds in his own heart, Kwai recalls “going to friends’ birthday parties to scoffing a cheeseburger and fries after many a night out”. Casting his mind back, he tells Dazed fondly, “McDonald’s even sponsored my football team once.” Then, darkly, with regret, he recalls, “The worst was in Skegness when I ate it for dinner three days straight.” 

The London-based photographer’s zine No. 38 McDonald’s (published by Hato Press) brings together photographs spanning the past eight years and depicts a spectrum of people – and animals – enjoying cuisine from the “nation’s favourite fast food giant”. What emerges – with great pathos and wit – is a story about consumption, everyday life, the passage of time, and the ephemeral artefacts that we can all relate to – infants, pensioners and pigeons alike.

Visit the gallery above for a closer look through some of the images featured in the new zine.

No. 38 McDonald’s by Charlie Kwai is available here from Hato Press. The zine launch takes place on April 6 2023 from 6pm until 8pm at 20 Goswell Road, London EC1M 7AA.

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