For my series Wait Watchers, I set up a camera in a public area with heavy foot traffic and photograph the scene as I perform mundane tasks in view of passers-by. The reactions and expressions of these incidental “background” subjects become a crucial part of my self-portraits, as their faces and body language, and sometimes overt actions, expressed questioning, critical, or hostile attitudes toward the sight of me simply inhabiting my body in a public place. My work is an attempt to reverse this critical gaze back on to the stranger and place the viewer in the unsettling position of being a passive witness to this moment in time. I consider my photographs to constitute a social experiment, and I travel the world to photograph the reactions of a diverse pool of people.
I place the camera, on a tripod or with an assistant, in full view of the by-passing gazer, set the focus and exposure, and take hundreds of photographs. I do not know if I have a successful image until I review the images on the computer. The images capture the gazers in a Cartier-Bresson, microsecond moment where the shutter, the scene, my actions, and their body language align and are presented on the frame. While I do not know what they are thinking, the gazers appear visibly troubled by my presence.
Haley Morris-Cafiero holds a BA in Photography and a BFA in Ceramics from the University of North Florida and a MFA in Art from University of Arizona. She is an Assistant Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at Memphis College of Art. Her series of photographs, Wait Watchers, has been featured in over 40 sites all over the world including CBS This Morning, Huffington Post and Salon.com. She has been nominated for the 2014 Prix Pictet and the series will be exhibited in the Chicago
Photography Center and the Newspace Center of Photography in 2014.