Photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero says her images of herself in public depict people who are “visibly troubled that I am in front of them” because she is fat. Ms.Morris-Cafiero first published her project last year with a series of photos of herself in various city settings. The photos appear to show strangers around her casting glances of debatable intention. She has expanded on her project with images she describes as herself engaged in “self-improvement acts.” Morris-Cafiero insist the images prove she is being judged by passers-by, “I am still looked at with critical glances when I try to ‘improve’ myself towards society’s standards.”
Since seeing the first series of photos last year, I have questioned the validity of this project. Consider this image from the new series:
This photo looks to me like a women exercising in the middle of the sidewalk, dressed in a 1980s style. She looks ridiculous. I’d look at her and be confused as well. Consider also that Morris-Cafiero puts her camera in full view so that everyone sees she is photographing herself. She sometimes uses an assistant. If I saw her, I’d wonder what this person was doing taking photos of herself acting like an idiot in a Blondie tee shirt and if she did that in Chicago? She’d incite shouts of hey lady, get out of the middle of the sidewalk why don’t you.
In many of her photos, she appears to be behaving in a manner that would likely draw quizzical looks. Consider this image:
I would be concerned why an adult was sitting alone on a child’s swing in a playground, looking sullen and sad. I would be concerned she was depressed. But when I noticed that she was shooting photos of herself doing it, I’d wonder why she was posing like that and figure it was probably an art school thing.
In many of Morris-Cafiero’s photos, the clothing she is wearing appears to be ill-fitting and unflattering. She is often looking sullen and even despondent. And she has a camera pointed at her. Morris-Cafiero also admits that she sets her camera up to take hundreds of photos. From so many, she is able to choose the images where people happen to be looking in her direction but why are they looking? Perhaps because a woman appears to be posing in an odd manner for a camera. I would definitely look at her and wonder what was going on.
I live in Chicago. On many occasions I have caught people shooting nasty glances at a fat person. It’s very common on crowded buses or trains when someone is taking up more than one seat. When I was over 300 lbs, I used to see women casting looks of disgust in the mirror as I walked into a ladies room. I’m certain that fat people are gawked at all the time but do Haley Morris-Cafiero’s photos actually illustrate that? I do not agree that these images are exposing some kind of shocking and blatant fat hate. I think the images are misleading and Morris-Cafiero is attempting to manufacture a self-serving sense of victimhood.