Dick McDonald in New Hampshire. © Greg Benson

Dick McDonald in New Hampshire. © Greg Benson

Recently, I went to see the movie “The Founder,” starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the man who turned a California roadside burger joint into the worldwide fast food franchise known as McDonald’s. Kroc expanded the Speedee Service System started by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald beyond their wildest dreams.

I had the opportunity to meet and photograph Dick McDonald on an assignment for the McDonald’s Corporation’s in-house magazine. Dick was the person who had dreamed up the Golden Arches, so photographing him in front of that iconic logo was the only choice!

Bright lights, big city.  57th Street, Midtown Manhattan.

Bright lights, big city.  57th Street, Midtown Manhattan.

On assignments with Mickey D’s, I traveled to more than 30 states capturing the architecture of the company in the country, the suburbs and in cities. And always—there were always those golden arches attesting to Dick McDonald’s original vision.

A McDonald’s in rural New England or Virginia Beach?  Exactly!

A McDonald’s in rural New England or Virginia Beach?  Exactly!

I learned a lot from my work photographing fast food restaurants. During one shoot I had to climb onto the roof to replace burnt out light bulbs. (We didn’t have the luxury of Photoshop retouching then.) And wow, that’s when I learned to appreciate pre-planning, calling ahead and asking managers to check a list of things that could derail a shoot.

Being an advocate for my client’s needs while on location made my crew, the workers in individual locations and my clients happy with our results. And ensured that we “got the shot.”

I learned to make the plain and ordinary look exciting. Not every building is the Taj Mahal, so knowing how to bring drama into any architectural image is an important part of my craft. Great lighting, smart angles and the talent in finding the perfect p.o.v. were my tools.

I understood trusting my instincts. I was secure knowing that I had nailed the shot before flying a thousand miles back home—something absolutely critical in those non-digital days.

During this work, my portraiture skills increased as I worked with lots and lots of people—both in planning and scheduling, as well as having them in front of my camera.

And, let’s face it, I learned to appreciate the occasional Big Mac with fries and a Coke.

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