Wait Watchers

Haley Morris-Cafiero

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Wait Watchers aimed to investigate how society uses the gaze to communicate opinions and how those facial gestures are interpreted by others using performative, self-portrait photography. The social experiment used photography to document the nonverbal reactions of strangers when they observe an overweight person who is following expected and acceptable behaviours in public. It was hypothesised that, based on lived experiences, strangers will exhibit what could be considered a critical gaze towards the subject. The research began after Morris-Cafiero noticed the facial expressions of a man standing behind her in the self-portrait she had set up in the middle of Times Square. Intrigued by the man and a similar photo that followed on the roll of film the photographer decided to set up her camera for the purpose of capturing the expressions of passers-by. Initial research was conducted and tested through an online release of 14 early images to Lenscratch (Smithson, 2013) testing public response which went viral within the United States. Responding to this, a larger body of new research was conducted exploring the socio-cultural and locational contexts into a fuller book publication. Locations in the US were informed by media research that identified the most vein American cities. To investigate the hypothesis within a wide demographic sample, the photographs were captured in 5 countries (US, France, Peru, Czechoslovakia, Spain). As the strangers were not interviewed, it is not known what the strangers were looking at or reacting to, however, the work illuminates the importance of gesture and facial expression in society.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherThe Magenta Foundation
Number of pages144
ISBN (Print)1926856074
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2015


  • self-portraiture
  • Surveillance
  • photography


Dive into the research topics of 'Wait Watchers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Future Food: Food for Tomorrow's World

    Morris-Cafiero, H., 1 May 2020

    Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

    Open Access
  • The Bully Pulpit: Belfast Exposed

    Morris-Cafiero, H., 5 Apr 2019

    Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

    Open Access
  • The Visible Woman

    Morris-Cafiero, H., 31 Aug 2019

    Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

    Open Access

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