Photographer's social experiment gains exposure

(WMC-TV) - A social experiment, conducted by a photographer in Memphis, explores and exposes people who make fun of others when their backs are turned.

Haley Morris-Cafiero, head of photography at the Memphis College of Art, shot many self-portraits for a series entitled "Something to Weigh".

"It started about three years ago when I was shooting a series of self portraits where I was going to locations I didn't feel comfortable about. It's the only time I really thought about my size," said Morris-Cafiero.

The assistant professor began noticing something about her photos, she was unintentionally capturing images of other people looking at her.

"I've heard comments, you know, of some people, from time to time, but I never thought I would capture that," said Morris-Cafiero.

A photo from Times Square was the impetus for a new series called "Wait Watchers".

"I noticed that there was a man behind me, like, kind of laughing and smirking and he's being photographed by a beautiful woman," said Morris-Cafiero. "In this over-saturation of senses of Times Square, but, he's fixed on me, and really sort of questioning my presence."

Now, the 37-year-old's camera lens is set, specifically, to catch the reactions of others who think their gestures are anonymous. And she's finding a worldwide phenomenon.

"Chicago, New York, Cusco, Peru, Barcelona. I'm going to Prague and Berlin this summer. I really just try to go all over, because it's about a certain gender, a certain race, you know, it's not about that. It's really, you know, a social experiment to see how people equate image to identity," said Morris-Cafiero.

The reactions don't surprise or bother Haley.

"You know, I make the image and I put it out there. And, based on your history is how you're going to see it and respond to it," said Morris-Cafiero. "Even if you think something you're doing couldn't possibly affect anyone, it actually really does."

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