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Appetizing Or Nauseating? Up-Close Shots Of Your Favorite Fast Food

Images address the billions-served phenom, showing salt, grease, special sauce, and every pore of burger and bun.

Something happened in 2013 that was totally run of the mill, and yet, upon closer inspection, awe-inspiring. McDonald’s served its (estimated) 300 billionth burger. The text “Billions and billions served” is by now just part of the average highway landscape.

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But consider the number: 300 billion burgers, when the total population of the U.S. is more in the range of 300 million. People are eating an awful lot of patties. Keep in mind that allegiance we pledge while looking at Jon Feinstein’s portraits of fast food meals.

Depending on your palate, his photos might make you hungry. Or they might make you take your time preparing a very slow salad tonight. But neither extreme is necessarily Feinstein’s goal with the series. Like our relationship with food, it’s more complicated than that: “You can see that some are disgusting, some are quite colorful and delicious-looking, and both have the ability to induce nausea and hunger in viewers at the same time,” the photographer tells Co.Design. “I’m interested in this layered reaction.”


Feinstein, who’s based in Seattle, uses a flat bed scanner to catch the slabs of food in high relief so that every breaded flake, blot of Heinz, and wilted pickle shows up. (“Seeing pockets of grease, specks of salt, and pores in a hamburger at that level of detail is fascinating,” he says.)

The roster of food came from the usual suspect’s kitchens: Wendy’s, McDonald’s, White Castle, and Burger King (shot in New York), and more local West Coast chains after Feinstein relocated to Seattle. His portraits come at a peculiar crossroads for the fast food industry. The subjects of his photographs could someday be anatomical studies of patties from the past, if this summer’s lab-harvested cow muscle burgers succeed in taking over the fast food future. But for Feinstein, that’s just fodder for the series: “I’d absolutely love to make a picture of a stem cell hamburger,” he says.

See more of Feinstein’s work here.

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.

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