In 2010, US photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero set up a camera to take a self-portrait in Times Square, NYC. When she got the film developed, she noticed one of the images had captured a passerby, looking at her with what looked like a sneer. Believing it to be body-shaming, caught in the flesh, she set out to capture more, hoping to illustrate the social condemnation that polices body size in America (and beyond). Her resulting book, The Watchers, was published in 2015 to acclaim, and the images went on to be widely exhibited, and shown online.
As soon as the images went public, however, Morris-Cafiero encountered another wave of social control – negative images posted online or emailed to her, with vicious comments on her body and what was apparently read as her audacity in highlighting peoples’ responses to it. “The major problem is she’s disgusting,” read one such reaction. “Normal people are never going to want to fuck you, regardless of how much you complain,” read another.
Again, rather than being hurt, Morris-Cafiero was amused – and inspired. Immediately deciding she’d use the comments to make a project, she experimented for two years with her response.