When photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero decided to take photos in environments that made her feel uncomfortable, she did not expect to find another project that would give her a worldwide fame. “Wait Watchers” is a social experiment based on a series of photos compiled in a book that captured how passers-by react to overweight people that they see on the street.
In 2010, after taking a selfie in Times Square, the photographer noticed that a man behind her was looking at her instead of posing for his own photo. He did it long enough, for the photographer it was obvious that he was judging.
“I’ve heard people make comments about my weight, but I never thought I would be able to capture that in a photo”, Morris-Cafiero also explained her desire to explore in more depth situations like that.
The woman installed a camera with a tripod in any public place that appeared interesting and is photographed doing normal things like talking on the phone or eating ice cream. Never dressed for the occasion, as she did not want her clothes to call attention, and never did anything to provoke the people who were captured by her camera.
After posting the photos, Morris-Cafiero received many comments that encouraged her to start exercising, to work harder to get dressed and maybe start wearing makeup so that people would not look upon her the way that they did.
This inspired her to continue with the series, but this time she tried to photograph the reactions of strangers while she was doing exactly what the Internet suggested. And while the woman was trying to improve herself for others, their reactions remained the same.
Scroll down to view images of the project
The photographer, who in the past has had health problems and suffers from hypothyroidism, says that she doesn’t care what people think of her and that this project was done and nobody feels bad. “I don’t do it in anger. I consider it a social experiment. It is not a type of sensationalism. I think that is a barometer of the society”.
The series has caused some controversy, as not all support the claims of the photographer. Although the images capture strangers looking at the photographer, no one can say with absolute certainty that it is teasing or judgmental. According to many commentators online, the strangers do not necessarily have to be negative when they look at someone, it is possible that they were just staring out of curiosity with the presence of the camera.