The series ‘Wait Watchers’ by photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero launched in 2010 after observing a stranger sneering behind her in a self-portrait she took in Times Square. This inspired Haley to create more self-portraits in public spaces to begin a conversation about the reactions of strangers and what it tells about how people one another. What were people mainly reacting to? Her weight!
In doing this, Haley sets up her camera with a tripod in a public area and photographs scenes where she performs mundane tasks while strangers pass by. She then examines the images to see if any passerby had a questioning element in their face or body language. However, the part performer, part provocateur, and part spectator, as described on her website, has now released a new set. She photographs people reacting to her exercising or being on the beach, among others.
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Haley often finds that people look at her body or comment on her weight with their gaze, and at times, she appeared to be mocked. Haley’s project has undeniably gone viral since launch, primarily as people identify with Haley’s experiences, which many people relate to being commented on. The photographer never dressed all glam for these scenes, and she never did anything provocative to spark the stares of people captured on film.
So far, the Wait Watchers has been collected into one book, and it wholly captures how strangers react to overweight people on the street. Following the publication, it has stirred some debate online as not everyone supports Haley’s perspective. A few people have since claimed that there’s no certainty that all of the looks are mocking or judging.
According to the comments, the strangers were defended with claims that they aren’t necessarily negative when looking at overweight people, adding that they might just have been curious about the camera or even something outside the frame. In response, Haley, who struggled with eating disorders in the past and suffered from Hypothyroidism, reportedly claims she doesn’t care what people think of her.
She insisted that her project is not to make anyone feel bad. According to BoredPanda, Haley stated: “I don’t do it out of anger. I consider it a social experiment. It’s not a gotcha! Kind of sensationalism. But it is taking the camera and reversing the gaze of the stranger back onto them. I think it’s a barometer of society, really.” In your opinion, is Haley’s project a fight for body positivity or not?