SALLY DAVIES & THE HAPPY MEAL PROJECT

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WHAT STARTED OUT AS A SIMPLE ART PROJECT ENDED UP IN A MEDIA FRENZY FOR PHOTOGRAPHER SALLY DAVIES, WHO DECIDED (IN ORDER TO PROVE A FRIEND WRONG) THAT SHE WOULD BUY A McDONALDS HAPPY MEAL, KEEP IT IN HER LIVING ROOM, AND SHOOT IT DAILY. DAYS TURNED INTO WEEKS, TURNED INTO MONTHS. ALMOST AN ENTIRE YEAR LATER AND THE HAPPY MEAL HAS SHOWN BARELY ANY SIGN OF DECOMPOSITION. THE PROJECT CAUGHT WORLDWIDE ATTENTION, INCLUDING THAT OF McDONALDS.
DIRTY MET WITH THE PHOTOGRAPHER TO TALK A BIT ABOUT THE PROJECT & TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ARTIST BEHIND THE HAPPY MEAL.
TEXT Paul Bruno

 


DIRTY: WHEN DID YOU MOVE TO NYC?

SALLY DAVIES: 1983. With $800, a piece of paper with two names to look up, and three years of college to complete.

 

D: WHEN DID YOU START SHOOTING?

SD: I think I got my first camera when I was 17.

 

D: WHAT PROMPTED THE IDEA FOR YOUR HAPPY MEAL PROJECT?

SD: I was telling my friend (who owns burger restaurants) about an online story of a woman who had a Happy Meal for 12 years. She is a teacher, and still uses it as an example in class, of what not to eat. My friend laughed at me, and said I should not believe everything I read on the web. He was fairly certain that the burger would mold within 2-3 days, or start to decompose, or do something.

So that day, I walked to the nearest fast food restaurant, which was a McDonalds, and purchased a Happy Meal. I put it on a white plate and left it in my living room. That was April 10th, 2010. I have a linen cloth on it so it doesn’t get too dusty, and I move it from the bookshelf to the coffee table to photograph it. It sat out through April, and May and part of June with no a.c. on. It was a hot spring. I photographed it every day for a couple of weeks, and eventually once a week and now every few weeks.

 

 

D: DID YOU THINK FOR A WHILE WHETHER OR NOT YOU SHOULD DO IT, OR DID YOU JUST START ON THE PROJECT STRAIGHT AWAY?

SD: No, straight away.

 

D: IS THE HAPPY MEAL STILL GOING? WHAT DAY ARE YOU ON (PLEASE GIVE TODAY’S DATE)?

SD: Yes. its still here. I last photographed it Sunday, November 21. Day 225 for the burger.

 

D: HAS MCDONALD’S BEEN IN TOUCH WITH YOU PERSONALLY AT ANY POINT DURING THE PROJECT?

SD: No. But they have issued a few responses to “Miss Davies’ Happy Meal Project”. They said what I would have said, if I owned McDonalds. Basically they can’t really comment because they don’t know anything about the environment that I am shooting in. Fair enough.

 

D: HAVE YOU HAD TO SEEK LEGAL REPRESENTATION AS AN OUTCOME OF YOUR PROJECT, DESPITE THE FACT THAT YOU HAVEN’T BROKEN ANY LAWS?

SD: No. and I would not. I am an artist. not a scientist. I’m also Canadian and we are not litigious people.

 

D: HAS THE PUBLICITY SURROUNDING THIS PROJECT HAD ANY AFFECT ON YOUR LIFE, YOUR CAREER?

SD: Yes it has. It consumed my life for almost 3 months, and it was a wild media ride, but all good. When something goes viral, its like you are Dorothy in the middle of the tornado. You don’t really know how huge it is until you are on the outside of the swirl.

I have several new collectors in Europe now, that found me because of the burger headlines over there. They followed the media trail back to my Flickr account. I’ve had almost 3 million hits on my photo site. I’m just saying…

 

 

D: ASIDE FROM YOUR HAPPY MEAL PROJECT, WHAT INSPIRES YOUR PERSONAL PHOTOGRAPHY?

SD: Unlike painting, which I used to do full time, photography is more of an ongoing diary. I go out every day and shoot. Whether its the Daily Dog project or my Urban Street images, something from the daily photos will survive and get out there. Wherever you go, thats what you’ll shoot. And one way or another, we are all standing on the shoulders of the people that came before us. If you pay attention to them, inspiration is endless.

 

D: WHAT OTHER PHOTO WORK HAVE YOU DONE THAT OUR DIRTY READERS MIGHT HAVE SEEN?

SD: I did the photography for Elvis Costello and the Spectacle TV show. I was on board for the Sting and the Police show, and also the Smokey Robinson Show. I also shot the cover for Debra Winger’s book “Undiscovered”, and the CD photos for Jim Cuddy “The Light That Guides You Home” (Warner Music).

 

D: DO YOU WATCH MUCH TV?

SD: The TV is always on at my house, but its more like audio wallpaper. I am working all the time. Rarely do I sit down and just watch tv.

 

D: WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO AT THE MOMENT?

SD: Eric Ambel. Steve Earle. Blue Rodeo. Emmy Lou. Bobby Darin.

 

D: ANY THOUGHTS ON 2012 THEORIES AND THE END OF LIFE ON EARTH?

SD: If you live long enough, you understand that people have been afraid of the end since the beginning. If this world had imploded every time the new agers thought it would, we’d all have been long gone. If it ends, who cares. I strongly suspect there is something very big and very fantastic after this, so I’m ready anyways.

 

SALLYDAVIESPHOTO.COM

 

 

 






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