Photographer Uses Self-Portraits To Flip The Script On Weight Bias

Cierra Bailey
Photographer, Haley Morris-Cafiero, used her craft and her personal life to capture society's weight bias and judgmental nature in action.

Photographer and assistant dean at Memphis College of Art, Haley Morris-Cafiero, combined her craft with her personal life experiences as she captured the way people respond to her appearance in a photo series titled “Wait Watchers.”

The project started nearly six years ago as an exploration of food in society, but has grown to a compilation of photos that document weight bias, beauty standards, the concept of self-improvement, judgment, and sexism, according to Mic.

It all started with a self-portrait Morris-Cafiero staged on the Coca-Cola steps in Times Square.

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"When I got the film back, I noticed that there [was] a man standing behind me who appeared to be sneering at me," Morris-Cafiero reportedly told Mic via email.

"Even though we were in the sensory-overload capital of the world and he is being photographed by someone, he appears to be fixated on me,” she continued. “I then began to set up a camera to see what images I would capture if I documented myself performing mundane acts in public.”

In the “Wait Watchers” series, Morris-Cafiero is basically just living life, doing everything that people around her are also doing, except because of her weight and appearance people outrageously react to her presence.

"I will never forget the first email I received after my photographs from the ‘Wait Watchers’ series were published online," she said. "The sender's name was 'Fatzo' and the address was a derogatory comment. The content of the email was just one sentence that said, 'You fat, it's a sign of weakness.'"

While Morris-Cafiero has received a lot of hate for her project, she’s also received just as much support and she highlights both ends of the spectrum in her book called “The Watchers.”

In a recent collection of photos for her project called “Self-Improvement,” Morris-Cafiero does all the things her critics suggest to her such as exercising and buying new clothes. However, while doing these things, she still receives the same judgment and ridicule from passersby.

Her work is not meant to praise or condemn the people she encounters, but rather allow people to see with more sensitivity and hold up a mirror for people to inspect their judgments and biases.

Morris-Cafiero reportedly said she suffered from undiagnosed anorexia during high school before she learned how to accept herself.

"I achieved loving myself when the frustration of being tired and stressed about my body all of the time came to head and I couldn't take it anymore," she said. "I was tired of being tired and hating myself for eating too much or not exercising enough. I knew that my body would never be bony. So I just let my body be what it wanted to be. If I were a supermodel, then I would have a problem. But I am not a supermodel."

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Banner Photo Credit: Twitter @DanMarcur