sigurd fandango – fast food heroes

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Sigurd Fandango

Fast Food Heroes

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They may not be paid very well, and the hours might be long. But behind the counters of McDonalds, Rays Pizza and other more anonymous fast food joints I found the workers to have a certain pride in their job.


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Sigurd Fandango


editors note: Norwegian photographer Sigurd, jet-lagged from Oslo, shot two portrait essays during my weekend loft workshop recently…this is one of them….he and five others joined me for my first weekend shooting workshop…it is often very interesting for me to see what some can do in such a short time….each student worked on their own “mini project”…i see value in both the long term essay and the short intense immersion into a subject…i push my students very hard to try to do something that is at least a “beginning”…..a concept they can work on more when they return home…we will see if Sigurd chooses to continue or if this was simply an exercise in his stylistic portraiture….


-david alan harvey

70 Responses to “sigurd fandango – fast food heroes”

  • wow…
    beautifully done..
    the music..
    the narration…
    brought tears to my eyes…
    which one is he,
    I wonder….
    would like to see some horizontal shots
    in addition…
    lovely piece…
    very moving…
    fast food,

  • Sigurd,

    I love your work. Such expressive portraits of these ordinary men and women that actually look extraordinary. 4,5,6 and 10 are my favourites but actually why choose…all very strong. I cannot believe you did this in such a short time. Portraits seem easy but capturing a real expression can be so tricky… I hope you carry on with this essay. Even the title “Fast food heroes” is great. Says it all!!!


  • This is a MAGNIFICENT project (short term or otherwise)….I love that the portraits are all Vertical, and that the people are the real ‘city scapes” of this series, that they define the sky and buildings behind them, that their personalities take on the character of the environment behind them, they they in truth are larger than the surrounding sky and buildings and light.

    That the picture celebrate both their strength and character and oddity and that we are left, afterward (i’ve just watched it 3 times) not with ‘fast food hero’s” but with people, with interesting, inspired faces that allow to take a look a new at the people, the people (not the faces) that most of us so often fail to see or recognize or celebrate….

    the visual aeshetics are brilliant (the people as real, and vital landscapes) but besides the brilliant and strong visual intelligence of this essay is the great, humane celebration of their lives and this work….

    in their faces and their expressions and both the quixotic and the serious moments, you have capture what it is that allows all of that surrounds to continue: this teeming life, this metropolian madness of our lives and without each of our contributions, the nuts and cracks would not hold….a funny and insightful and in the end celebrant essay!…

    a wonderful and thoughtful and fuck-yea kick-ass work….1 weekend….great….:))))

    couldn’t be happier!

    thanks for sharing with us

    all the best

  • Love it. Great concept with great potential long-term. Hope you continue :))

  • Hello Sigurd,

    I love your essay… the music… sound which is very good… and portraits vertical !! it is a very good choice… for a multimedia or a book (I believe to have seen only Raymond Depardon’s book, which had chosen the vertical format for all photos), I cannot believe also that you made it one week ! It is incredible !

    all the best, audrey

  • Hi,
    I love the idea, photographing the hidden people helping our society continue on its merry way. This also brings up the question of the type of person who are doing these jobs – which could lead to a whole other project. Sigurd has done a great job in getting these people on camera.

    I find the post production work ham fisted and therefore distracting and detracts from the content. My eye is always drawn to the technical mistakes – back to that old argument of left right brain.


  • I have to echo Ian’s comments above with regards to some of the technical issues with the images… some better/worse than others, but love the body of work as a whole. Yeah! Keep going!!

  • Sigurd, Nice job – great start to an essay that could run and run! The voiceover is very mooving.

    If you continue, it would be great to follow some of these people home (home New York and home Mexico etc.). As Ian says, the hidden people.

    Best wishes and congratulations,


  • siguard – i do really like the idea of these..

    where in norway? i´m in stavanger with min samboa, beate. – moving to bergen after a month in croatia during june..

  • Is it really so perfect? No critique? You are always so sweet ;-)

    I do not like that kind of postprocessing. It is so offensive, people looks strange and unnatural. It grabs too much attention from the meaning of the pictures and the subject. I wonder to know if those portraits could be so “powerfull” without those PS techniques.

  • The PS is way overdone. It doesnt look “real”. The people look like drawn in a comic book.

  • Real people, real life. They live their own lifes in harmony with themselves. Very good control of light.

    If one day life takes me to New York again, I will try to get in touch David Alan Harvey. Well, I guess one has to be a quite rich guy in order to get an advice from David.

  • antony rz

    i don´t even have a bank account and david often advises me on cooking techniques.

    dietmar and mikido…
    get your gristle into these if you hate overdone photoshop..
    i don´t see what the fuss is personally, so long as it is well executed..

    JIM jimeny jim jimeny jim jim jerahhhhh


    obviously you do not know me…i spend so much time in New York seeing young photographers who knock on my door often with no notice whatsoever and with nothing expected in return whatsoever…95% of my advice, my mentoring, is done without any compensation to me….and any astute photographer can get a whole lot from me right here online….yes, some photographers do choose official workshops which guarantee my time for a whole week and the very talented with no funds are often given scholarships…whenever i travel internationally, i also review the portfolios and the aspirations of photographers who seek it…..if you keep an eye on my schedule, which i report right here, i will be pleased to review your work whenever we can both work it out (UK late June, Italy in July)…. you may not be “rich”, but neither am i…i am in a constant state of struggle……but, ask around Anthony, and i think you will find that most will tell you that my door is open…..

    cheers, david

  • Overcooking matters when it hits me in the stupid eyes like a hammer, and does not let us get past the overcooking. That is the case for me here, and with Klavs Bo Christensen’s disqualified work (linked above me by david bowen).

  • to find a subject in so short of a time and photographing the heroes this way,
    this part was the most catching for me.
    from a nonphotographer standpoint,
    these pictures (most) are not very flattering.
    the light hurts my eyes and
    it looks like they should be hurting the heroes’ too.

  • uh,stoop
    now i see that’s what you’re saying too.
    duh, didnt realize that until i read you again.

  • Anthony R.Z.:

    I am as far from which as a photographer can get…my wife (also an artist) struggle to literally make ends me, pay the bills, raise a teen age son, buy film, print photographs, pay the hydro bill…and over the last 6 months, i literally have had extra cash to buy only 3 rolls of film, truth…

    and yet, I can call and consider David a friend, a person with whom I have talked (in person, on the phone, on the web), about whom i’ve talked about photography, life, money, family, everything. I have probably not asked for Advice from David (i guess im too stubborn, too independent ;)), but i do not think of so much as a Magnum Great Photographer (which is certainly is) but as a friend, a colleague, a person to whom i can be honest and expect honesty. he’s a part of my family’s life, and this was NEVER born from an attempt to ‘hook up’ with a famous, great photographer, but because David and I connected through love of this life, the photographic life…he didnt know me, and actually, i didnt know him, but somehow, it connected…

    David is one of the most GIVING beings on the planet…and you dont need anything to talk to him, to sit down with him, except this: time, locale, patience to get to him….if he’s blinded by anything, it is endless energy of doing doing doing….i worry about him often, but you aint gotta do anything more than contact him….talk to him here, knock on his door in nyc, get too him at a festival…he’s an over-booked man, and like 10,000,000 run after him (i’d never want that in my life, got enough already), but you need nothing to talk to david, to get his advice, except to be an open, honest human being…that’s fucking rare in the photo world, filled with lots of sharks and self-important folks….he’s a rareity…i say that as a friend…

    all the best

  • i meant ‘i’m as far from rich as you can get’…damn typo ;)))…runningb

  • David, it‘s so nice to hear… It’s unbelievable… Of course, I don’t know you, but about three years ago, when I chose photography as my life, I spent a lot of time in the evenings looking at your work, again and again… and I loved watching you working in Cuba on youtube :). David, any chance to see you in Lithuania? Just kidding :)

    Best regards

  • bblack, thank you for you words indeed. Very true and very deep.

    Best wishes from Lithuania

  • Hi Sigurd,
    The plus of this project is……..
    1. The simplicity.
    2. The straight forwardness of the shots.
    3. The faces looks proud and the a tilt of your camera from bottom to upwards gives a nice feeling of their satisfaction to their work.

    Partha Pal

  • I somewhat disagree about the overuse of photoshop- I felt Sigurd’s essay was incredibly emotional, using whatever techniques he needed to use to help others connect to the average man. Overproduction is a problem for lots of documentary folks, but this doesn’t seem to me the type of straight documentary piece that would require a literal interpretation of what is supposedly real. It’s about making monuments out of, forgive me, “unskilled” laborers, distorting reality..Anyway, was there even much PS used?

  • A set of portraits which convey the pride of these ‘common men’, that is what I like the most in this essay. Honestly, contrary to the common belief here, I don’t find ‘too much’ of Photoshop here! Having said that, I would like to add that if we take the cover photo as an example, there is a distinct hallow by the edge of silhouetted building on the left. Subject to correction, I think this has been caused due to ‘incorrect’ / ‘lazy’ (I don’t know if the hallow is intentional) use of shadow/highlight option in Photoshop! Sigurd has also used fill-flash, which in digital photos sometimes makes the images appear more ‘photoshopped’ than they are actually. Now, I think every digital image needs some amount of PP/correction and as long as those corrections are within ‘limits’, these should be acceptable. Bringing out shadow details should be acceptable. I am no good in Photoshop myself, but I feel that the PP corrections in the Photoshop are minimal in these photos.

  • Dietmar wrote: “The people look like drawn in a comic book”.

    yep, because they are presented as (super)heroes… the whole essay, as conceived, shot and postproducted, works perfectly imo, also consdering the very short time it was realized… compliments, Sigurd!

  • I like the concept and its simplicity. Perhaps too much treatment which ends up detracting from the simplicity and impact.

  • Some strong portraits here though beyond that I wonder…. are they really so proud or is that just a natural reaction by anyone when they are pulled aside and asked to have their picture taken? I’m not saying they are or they are not, just raising the question.

    I don’t mind the p.p though wish it was a bit more even throughout (some of the faces too washed out imo). #8 is my favorite.

  • I love it.

    Best of luck,

  • Love the vertical, the black and white, the upward angle, the high key light. Great start and …this would be an amazing long term project!

  • This is a significant body of work in terms of both art and humanity. The POV–looking upwards into the subjects’ faces–makes them appear larger than life, and for many of these hardworking folks I’d guess that is a perspective from which they have rarely if ever been viewed. Keeping a consistent vertical format and exposure gives the essay a painterly quality I find most engaging. I too hope that Sigurd will continue this project in his own and other countries. I can see a book in the making.


  • Reading your views on the workshop that produced Fast Food Giants, I can only say bravo.
    I took a week long workshop by Magnum in Toronto once. We were told to randomly photograph the streets. I love shooting on the street but I don’t have have to spend 1000k plus airfare etc to do that.

    I wish that we had been given the latitude to focus on a project, short or long term. I believe that I can speak for the rest of our class here. We felt like we were afloat on the sea. Directionless. Too bad, there was talent in the room that wanted to be tested and taken to task.

    It was an amazing week, we all took something away from it, but still, it fell short of the mark in many respects. Facilities being one of them.

    Amazing essay Sigurd, I enjoyed every frame.

  • I love that first guy. He makes me smile every time I drop by here.

  • DAH…!!!?.. rich..?????
    Hey David (rich guy)..
    Don’t forget your sleeping bag so
    you can sleep on my “luxurious” floor..
    DAH… rich…
    Moping the floor ..

  • TED…

    thank you for your report of last year’s Magnum workshop in Toronto…i must say it does sound disappointing and as the person at Magnum who handles our education programs i need to know these things…please accept my apology… you know , i was not able to attend Toronto last year, so i do not know exactly how things went….however, i will be there this year…

    if you are in the Toronto area, i now invite you gratis to come to any one of our workshops starting May 4 to help make up for your not so happy experience last year….if you cannot make this, then please contact me by e-mail and i will offer you several locations for a free workshop during 2009..there is a very serious portfolio review required for my loft workshop in New York in the fall, but if you can make the cut, then i will offer you this workshop free of charge as well..this is my own workshop and not affiliated directly with Magnum….

    i have only one question for you Ted…if you had a week to shoot, why did you not work on a project?? i doubt any of us would tell you what ” to do” or give an assignment per se…however, any good mentor should figure out a way to key in on the personality of the photographer, factor in their skill level, and push them in ways they never dreamed and towards a “result” of which all can be proud…

    many great photographers are not necessarily great teachers….i know some photographers at Magnum and elsewhere who would really have trouble with a student who was not totally self motivated and/or naturally impassioned…in other words, that is how they “are” , so they may have a hard time understanding how to motivate someone who is not naturally motivated or ready to jump into the fray…..this works out ok for some students who fly into the first day and are ready to rock..but, this does not work for everyone…some need the key passed and some great photographers are just not skilled at passing the key….

    however, no matter what, nobody should walk away from a Magnum workshop feeling as did you…

    again, i apologize for your experience in Toronto last year and i hope you will accept my compensation to you….

    cheers, david


    nice observation amigas…you “got” one of the things Sigurd thought about a lot…such a simple thing and obviously unnoticed consciously by many, the very subtle low angle giving these fast food workers dignity…and , of course, i fell in love with the sound track..we all did..we could not help ourselves constantly quoting the narrator…we would walk around my loft saying “always”…..

    cheers, david

  • David, it was easy for me to catch on to Sigurd’s POV since it looked so familiar to my eye. Hey, that’s how I see everyone from my scooter. You’re ALL larger than life to me!!!


  • Very fresh and “contemporary” use of B&W! The angle, depth of field and use of flash help build an uplifting mood. Combined with the great expressions you captured, the series works very well on many levels.
    You manage to have a subjective but not pompous take on the subject. A clear vision.


  • Oh Man that BKK workshop was awful!! Shitty hotel… terrible tutors! Jim who!!??…

    Should be free around May 4th. Waiting… Waiting…


  • Fine work, and yes, Patricia, right on on the angle, Ithere is absolutely no doubt that Sigurd approchad his subjects with total respect.

    Yet for me, unless he wanted to convey that urban minimum wage workers are greek Gods on their own (and we are all, if we compare our basic rights with those of average men in older and ancient societies. Most of us do comparatively live like kings 2 or more centuries ago) it is a bit too stylistic and formal an approach given the simplicity of the subject, as Sigurd introduced it to us.

    The dramatic skies, almost ciseled in marble, do steal, IMO, from te subjects, throw me off totally. It’s as if they are an equal presence, and an intrhoning (not threatening) presence to the individuals in the shot.

    Maybe, as with Gilden’s NY street work (I sense a small influence actually), we are first thrown off a bit, then conquered by such stylistic approach.

  • Sorry, but these portraits do nothing for me. I find the post-processing doesn’t work for me (are the subjects so boring that you had to “spice things up?”). I also think that doing these in black & white and a lack of environmental context causes me to shrug and say “so what?” If I didn’t know they were fast food workers I would have had no idea, or not without close examination of their shirts. The whole thing seems like a pointless exercise…sorry if that’s harsh. The intention of the photographer is not enough, though plenty of people seem content with that. Honestly David, does there have to be a soundtrack? It’s a weird concept. The photos should stand on their own. I find the first thing I do when I check the latest Burn RSS feed is hit PAUSE and MUTE. Cheers.

  • Nice work. such a simple project – but done so well. i like that you brought each person outside and photographed them in the same light, angle, etc – instead of in their environment. nice.

  • MIKE…

    no, there does not HAVE to be a soundtrack…students choose whether to have music, live sound, or silence with their work….i am so sorry you did not come to the show, for you would have seen all three choices employed…as well as different styles depending on where each photographer was trying to “GO” and where they were coming “FROM”…

    you are quite correct, photographs should always be able to stand on their own…however, for slide shows very often a sound track is effective particularly for presentation to a live audience….as i have said many times before, an exhibition of work is one thing, a printed piece another, and a slide show quite another….sometimes the viewing medium dictates how any ancillary material is to be used…

    i fell in love with this particular monologue…found it poignant …..and i felt his words matched very clearly his face…he looked like the man who would say those words…obviously it did not hit you the same way..fair enough Mike….

    i cannot imagine you would see a sound track as a “weird concept” right at a time where one tremendous section of our whole craft is thundering towards not only live sound but video implementation as well…

    if you hit mute BEFORE you see the show, how in the world do you know if you like it or not???

    frankly , i do feel that multi-media is in the future going to be way way overdone just because technology will allow us to do it so easily…however, masters will appear in this new craft…an interesting one is coming here in a few days….if you hit “mute” on this one coming Mike (Crest Hotel) it will be like cutting the sound track off before watching Lost in Translation…now that would be a “weird concept”…

    we talked quite a bit with Sigurd about context…to have or not to have a McDonald’s sign or building in the background to give context…to quite literally “tell us” these were fast food workers….finally Sigurd decided against such banal overly obvious signage…as did Avedon for his portraits in the American West….as you may remember , not a mountain or prairie in sight..

    i do not think anyone would think that this essay is a final product or a “done deal” nor would i imagine everyone to like these portraits or for “everyone” to like “everything” no matter what is presented…..Fast Food Workers is definitely a “work in progress” OR maybe Sigurd will drop the idea completely..but, to call this one day shoot a “pointless exercise” is a bit tactless Mike IMO given that i doubt you have any idea where 22 yr. old Sigurd was with his photography BEFORE meeting these fast food workers….sketches lead to paintings….Sigurd is simply sketching, which is exactly how it was presented here on BURN….

    Mike, please join us next time around….just pop in and hang out…….it would be good to see you again and i still am anxious for you to do some writing here when you have time…Look3 for you??? at least please drop me a note at so we can make a plan….

    cheers, david

  • Love The soundtrack. Very touching.
    Finding it hard to love the frames though. I do appreciate that you have given them some dignity back[maybe they never lost it, who knows?], and for a short series it does have cohesion[which apparently is important], but despite all this I find myself ‘noticing’ the technique above the work. I am sure that a lot of work has gone into the making of this set, and it does have a lot to say, and people really are liking it, but it isnt quite there yet for me and I believe its down to the treatment of the treatment.

  • So. I have been having trouble with this essay since it came upon us. i love the soundtrack, love the music. what i have been having difficulty with is (what is to me) putting people on a ‘stage’ in a role.
    i like people as they are. but, sometimes, we need to light up people who are against the wall, in a corner, behind something to awaken our senses and realities. to show us something, tell us something. you know those people at parties or in groups sometimes who are quiet? who knows how interesting they are? you made me wonder about all these people. their expressions are engaging. I don’t really care about your PP; it’s your deal.
    What impresses me most is that YOU cared. You worked hard to do a mini-complete project. there are layers of thought and creativity going on here. big time. That’s making it happen. you stayed with it. you did it. i’m so respectful of that. you didn’t flounder around, shooting from your hip and being surprised with the results. loved seeing it. listening. and mostly thinking and thinking. thank you. anne

  • ANNE…

    it is always nice to hear from you my friend…we have lost touch a bit and i wish it were not so….i miss your energy and enthusiasm for life which shows so clearly in your work…please let me know either here or by private e-mail what you have been doing…i KNOW you have been doing something because if there is anyone on this planet that i can be sure is creating something near and dear to the heart, it is you….

    if you ever get all the way down down down to the Carolina outer banks please please visit me…there is nothing i would enjoy more than your presence in my home….

    hugs, love..david

  • i am working on some things i’m excited about. alex and becky have had a look. i’d love to share them with you. anywhere. i am obsessed with the outer banks and am planning a trip there for one of my projects…
    “about the sea” not waves and stuff, but fishermen/women that feeling you can taste by looking and being by the water…i miss you. i’ll be at Look3 as a visitor, but before that, i’m on my way to you.
    love you. anne

  • on the ESSENTIAL nature of sound/soundtrack….nothing to add to what David has suggested either, when i consider sound, it is as a part of the presentation, not a last-minute decision…whether i use music (as i did for bones and for the EPF presentation at Look3 last year), or natural sound (which i actually prefer best of all) or voice, it all depends…a book is silent….an exhibition can be either silent or filled with sound…a slideshow presentation can be both, or contain both (i used silence at the end of bones, but most people were like, hey the music stopped, so i guess that idea failed miserably)…anyway, this is NOT the same thing, but i’m posting a video from a wonderful Columbian artists who now lives in Toronto…my wife had the pressure to meet and befriend her….magical work, but take a listen….it isnt photography of course, it’s video/filmmaking, but LISTEN to how important sound is here (the singing and the clattering and clinking of the ice/bones)…..

    by the way, i loved too the voice narration in Sigurd’s piece..

    ok, the video FEBRUARY, Julieta Maria


  • Oh Anne, not another photographer on the outer banks! And I thought I had this place all to myself…. just kidding. Stop in to my studio when on Hatteras, about 25 miles south of DAH, or LOOK3 for me in Charlottesville somewhere. Crabs are steaming, gotta run.

  • Pardon me for stupidly intruding again but what Kenneth Jarecke has to say about being honest must be posted here.

  • STOOP:

    no time to write, but you’ve got to be kidding me….have you read all 3 parts of his analysis?…..the irony is that he begins this diatribe with an interesting observation…from Part I

    “Haiti doesn’t have much to offer its own people, but it does have two important things that photographers can appreciate. 1) There’s a constant stream of personal hardships happening there, that normally a would-be contest winner would have to travel all the way to Africa to capture….”

    and this doesn’t betray or underlie the same superfluity that he accuses Klavs and others of engaging…the difference, one has to do with the ‘appearance’ of a photograph (an uninteresting image that’s been Shopped into being) and the other (his mentality) as to do with the superficiality of what constitutes photographic (i imagine he’d name this engaged or humanitarian) philosophy….

    the irony too, is that he extolls the virtues of his own work while diminishing that of the others…his shot of Phelps???…give me a break….the irony of his argument, and the argument of others, vis-a-vis the post-production of a phtoograph within the framework of Journalistic practice, completely fails to come to terms with the inherent nature of both photography and the bias of reporting to begin with….

    you know the fabled beginning of Kundera’s The Lightness of Being?…as magnificent of an example of the role of photogrpahy, history., conceit as one can articulate….the problem IS NOT the appearance of images, but the reading of them, the intention of the photographers, the use of them, our own failure to understand beyond the power of the photograph….

    Jarecke’s kind of hectoring logic is just as superficial as those running around p-shopping their pict to make them look edgy…..

    good journalism is very simple:

    tell the story in the clearest way you know how and allow the readers to draw conclusions for themselves, based on the inspiration of the story, the presentation, to get them off their asses and reflect or search for more…

    this kind of shit is just empty and serves no value to either 1) reduce the practice of mechanical, operatic journalism or 2) cattle the biting dogs of photographers…..

    the whole debacle, including this diatribe, and much i’ve read, smacks of pompous, self-important witch hunting….

    i hope he’s not applying for membership into our beloved SPA…check that, maybe we need just that: both of them ;))


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