Haley Morris-Cafiero’s Self-Portraits Expose Passersby Reactions to Her Weight

Haley Morris-Cafiero

While creating an image for my Something to Weigh series, I decided to photograph myself sitting alone on the Times Square stairs to capture my solitude in a busy crowd. After developing the film, I noticed that a man was standing behind me being photographed by an attractive blonde woman. Rather than pose for her camera, he was sneering at me behind my back.

Five minutes later and at another location, another man turns his back to gawk at me while I am photographing myself sitting at a café table. I have always been aware of people making faces, commenting and laughing at me about my size. I now reverse the gaze and record their reactions to me while I perform mundane tasks in public spaces.—Haley Morris-Cafiero

Memphis-based photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero‘s series Wait Watchers freezes judgment in time. Cafiero sets up a tripod in various cities and walks around the area for 5-10 minutes doing casual, normal things while shooting hundreds of photos. It is only later in front of her computer screen that she will sift through the images, looking for reactions and criticism from passersby. Cafiero’s self portraits are powerful—they reveal, expose, react, question, comment.

Haley Morris-Cafiero

Haley Morris-Cafiero

Haley Morris-Cafiero

Haley Morris-Cafiero

Haley Morris-Cafiero

Haley Morris-Cafiero

Haley Morris-Cafiero

via Beautiful Decay

If you’re a photographer, you can now promote your new series, website, gallery show, recent assignment, etc. on Feature Shoot for an affordable price. Find out about becoming a Spotlight Photographer here.

  • Grammar Nazi

    * Passersby. FTFY.

  • Jenny

    Looking at these images, I really don’t feel like people are looking at her weight. They’re looking at the strange (or at least unusual) things she’s doing – standing in the middle of a crowd, looking at a map, obstructing the flow of traffic by fiddling with her camera, being an adult looking forlorn on a swingset.

    Granted, we can ascribe a certain amount of metaphor to be derived from these frozen moments, but I also think that when you’re looking for something (in this case, criticism, otherness, etc.) you’ll almost certainly find it.

  • Rachel

    This seems more revealing of the artist’s insecurities than of weight-based judgment from those around her.

  • ICallBull

    Pure manipulation. You can interpret a photo to say anything you want.

    Photo 1 girl: “I’d love a $5 sandwich and beer, but waiting in line? Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
    Photo 2 girl: “My nose is so runny.” 2nd girl and boy: “WTF is that camera for?”
    Photo 3 guy: “I could totes go for some yogurt right now.”
    Photo 4 guy: “I wonder if she’d like to go see West Side Story with us.”
    Photo 5 cop: “Where’s my hand on my hat? Am I photoshopped?” 2nd cop: “Yeah, you are.”
    Photo 6 guy: “Who ties their shoes while I’m trying to get by? Rude.”
    Photo 7 lady: “I knew I should’ve worn my sneakers. Her shoes look comfortable.”
    Photo 8 guy: “Why are taking a picture of yourself on a swing–not swinging?”

  • Just a girl

    I think that the other commenters are correct. I am an obese woman and a photographer (bigger than this woman for sure)- I don’t think a lot of the faces can be definitely attributed to her. First off, there are sights and sounds beyond what the camera captures. Secondly, anyone who has taken photographs knows that absolutely HORRIBLE faces can be captured even when someone is intentionally trying to take a good photo- candid shots are even worse sometimes! Looking at these photos is taking most of the people (except for the idiot security guard) out of the context of the world. People mistakenly think that photos show “reality”. Personally I agree with the others saying that this is more about highlighting her own insecurities and being hyper-sensitive to the people around her. If she didn’t feel the way she does about herself, she probably wouldn’t see it reflected in the photos.

  • I found this a bit sad but perhaps for different reasons. Seems to me that this woman prefers being a victim of her weight more than her desire to do anything about it. She should be happier and healthier if only she took control and fixed the problem. She is a pretty lady and seems bright but that seems hidden with self doubt and an, unfair to herself, resignation to her fate.

  • wendywombat

    All commentors are also reacting to the visualisation of her weight. These photos are excellent in the way they confront and expose the people doing the gazing…..

  • JM

    You are standing in a busy sidewalk, with a camera and tripod set infront of you, while you make ackward poses – and when people get curious, you think they are thinking about your obesity? How sad. It’s not fair to put these people’s faces on the web, judging them with her own insecurities. Her photographs only enables her own insecurities about her weight. Mass shooters usually release a “manifesto” to “justify” their hate. I hope this is not hers. She should seek help…

  • Ambrose

    Any person bending over on a busy city street is going to get looked at. Any person whipping out a paper map it the day of smart phones is going to get stared at. Any adult sitting on a children’s park swing is going to get stared at. These have less to do with obesity and more to do with odd behavior.

  • Bob

    Agree with the other posters, all make good points. Especially ICallBull – that police hat sure looks ‘shopped to me.

    I would add:

    Photo 8 guy: “Hey! Lady with the camera. You’re making my kid sad OK? We’re trying to have a fun day at the park here and you’re weirding us out.”

    If she’s insecure about her weight to the point that it’s causing her to have issues, maybe it’s time for her to go see a registered/licensed dietician and a therapist.

  • Chris

    I’ve seen this series a few times as its been making the rounds on blogs. The more I see the images, the more clear it becomes that they have nothing to do with weight – at least outside the photographers head. Like other commenters have said, how is it that the photographer’s odd behavior isn’t called into question? When you put a camera on a tripod in the middle of a public sidewalk, passerbyers notice and look – regardless of who or what is in front of the camera.

    I’d be much more interested in looking at composites of some of the hundreds of images she takes so that everyone in the frame is focused on her. That way, I’d get a sense of what it’s like to be in her head. Seeing images in which 1 or 2 people happen to be looking in her direction just don’t do it for me…

  • Albin

    The cop ought to be disciplined. Otherwise agree many of the glances look pretty casual.

  • dick hertz

    photoshopped hat clearly has a hand holding it from behind the hat. you’ve never grabbed something that shape from behind and not on top or in front?

    also “idiot security guard” person.. those are cops. Idiot cops. I don’t want the significance of how rude/disrespectful/and assholish cops really are. Because they’re just like everyone else.

    this fat chick clearly has some fat issues, and I’m only going to call it out because thats what you are, fat. Yes people can be rude by calling it out arbitrarily.. so why would you have us do it willingly by our commentary to your photos? Hey look how this fat girl takes pictures of herself thinking shes being gawked at for being fat.

    Regardless of the fact that 90% of these people dont seem to give two shits about her existence, let alone her weight… does she not think that people who gawk or do insulting things behind a fat persons back dont do that to ANYONE with ANY difference that they find target-able?

  • sick of bad photography

    Not only is there no strong visual evidence to prove the series’ concept but the photographs themselves have zero artistic merit.

  • M

    Well first off, I don’t know that the cop picture is really photo shopped. I know that I could hold a hat at that angle behind someone’s head without any problem and I do see his arm behind it. If it is not photo-shopped I see him as a “phot jumper”. There is clearly a camera set up somewhere right in front of them. The cop is walking by and he sees an oportunity to add a hat on her head to an already absurd scene that she is capturing of herself on a cell phone. The first office’s face I believe is more involuntary than anything else as he is focusing all his energy on holding the hat in just the right sport without hitting her on the head. Second cop, I think is making a face at his partner for being quite childish and maybe checking to make sure his rolls are not showing like hers are.
    Secondly whether or not they are making faces at her I think this lady needs to dress like she cares abour herself and start putting more energy into getting healthier. She says on her website that she has always struggled with her weight. I do not think she is huge. In fact, I know a handful of people who are much bigger than she is but who dress much better. She’s making herself look fat in these pictures and drawing attention to it by wearing clothes that are too tight and reveal a lot of skin. I agree with the others that the issues run much deeper here. I am praying that she finds the help she needs and can learn to love herself.

  • M

    “Photo jumper” I mean

  • Mike

    Suck it up Princess, you’re being a bit too sensitive.

  • Jimb

    “photobomber” you mean…

    This is one of the more sensible comment sections I’ve seen under this series of photos online. Others seem intent in buying into this woman’s paranoia, feeling some sort of social guilt and therefore supporting her clearly deluded view of the world. Setting up a tripod and then walking ten feet away to stand in a crowd is bound to draw a few looks, trying to act as though there is no camera or like you are looking at a map or forlornly sitting on a child’s swing while you have just moments ago focused a camera on yourself is odd. You may get mocked in public because of your weight but these photos don’t document that at all, stop being paranoid and maybe try capture people who actually are being ignorant towards you.

  • yo

    I think it’s really telling that people on here can’t own up to the fact that they judge obese people on the street every day. I mean the comments denying anyone was actually thinking about her in regards to weight still say she should lose weight, get healthy, call her a fat chick, or imply that she probably feels ashamed of herself (because well obviously just look at her right?)…like, do you honestly not see how obvious you guys are? I mean you feel entitled to make incredibly personal assumptions on her health, happiness, and emotional well-being based entirely off her weight…what. does. that. tell. you. ???? It’s like the entire damn point. Anyway, anyone that doesn’t honestly think the majority of people who were staring at her weren’t hyper-aware of how big she was is kidding themselves. The comments should be included in the project, they goes right along with the entire concept, if not highlight more accurately peoples aversion to obesity.

  • michael flanagan

    you may have gotten people to talk and thats art and shit, but please, quit playin the damn victim you better than that aint you? jus bein real

  • shahnyboy

    Many here missed the point:

    These are REENACTMENTS of situations where she feels like someone is always watching & judging her. Of course, the ones looking at her within the photos aren’t actually thinking what she’s paranoid about.

    How she shot it is besides the point.
    And why pick on her about it? The most well known photographs in history are captured by mistake or deliberately manipulated the situation.

    And the insensitive comments are truly not necessary.

  • Tea

    Riiiight. Yeah, it’s totally about her weight. Not her rubbish outfits or the odd and attention-seeking behaviour. This should be a Dove advert it is so lame.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get some visual inspiration into your day!