"My the Other, Other Half" for McDonald's China

Client: McDonald's China
Photographer: Noah Stephens
Illustrator: Hwee Beng Poh
Creative Director: Hwee Beng Poh
Location: Shanghai, China

"My the Other, Other Half" alludes to the relationships we choose in life. We most commonly think of an "other half" when it comes to choosing a life partner. But considering the time and energy we dedicate to work over the course of our existence, in many ways, our work becomes a life partner of sorts also - your other, other half.

This eight-portrait campaign for McDonald's China went live summer 2011. It demonstrates how a work relationship with McDonald's has played a transformative role in the lives of eight of their employees from across the country. The employees were flown to Shanghai in February 2011 where I, along with creative director and illustrator Hwee Beng Poh worked to make images that conveyed the interplay between the employees' work and personal lives.

Hwee Beng hired me for the job after seeing my photo project The People of Detroit on flickr.com [if you'd like read a detailed account of how this all happened and listen to me gush about being selected for this job the way a 16-year-old girl would gush about being asked to go to senior prom with the captain of the football team, click here].

In my personal project, I often make portraits of strangers who I encounter as-they-are; usually on the street. I then make impromptu decisions about what the subject happens to be wearing, their facial characteristics, the light and color palette available in the scene and I then try to synthesize these impromptu elements into an aesthetically pleasing final image.

This style lent itself to the McDonald's campaign because in many ways I was asked to do the same thing in China. The purpose of the campaign was to show the employees as they are in their everyday life. That meant minimal wardrobe and styling; they more or less came as they were. Which was fine with me. In my opinion, people are at their best when they are being who they authentically are.

My experience in China was nothing less than magical. Hwee Beng and her production crew are some of the most hospitable, kind, and humorous people I've ever met in my life. China is far and away the most unfamiliar place I've ever had the chance to experience but my hosts made me feel right at home.

The subjects in the photographs were similarly amazing. They were genuinely excited to take advantage of the kind of emerging career opportunities in China that many people in America take for granted. I am honored to have recorded this very special time in their professional and personal lives.

To view the individual portraits, the ad copy of each employee's story [translated from the original Mandarin campaign],  and read a few of my personal notes, please see below the break.