Having listened to Haley Morris-Cafiero speak at a recent guest lecture, I find myself in awe of her bravery in her book, ‘The Watchers’.
In February 2013, her images from the series ‘Wait Watchers’ were published on Lenscratch. The next day they were published on Huffington Post and then in the Daily Mail newspaper. After that, the images went viral. The comments sections on these articles were filled with anonymous comments criticising her. Many unsolicited comments were made about her weight and general appearance.
At this point, many people would have retreated into their shell and tried to ignore the criticism. Instead, Morris-Cafiero said “I love my body and these unsolicited criticisms fuelled me to make new images. I now set up a camera and record people as they pass by me while I am doing what society wants me to do: exercise and get a makeover. By attempting to “improve” myself, I am engaging in the conversation of body acceptance and idealized beauty standards that unrealistic and unwanted by many people.” (THE WATCHERS: a book of the Wait Watchers photographs 2014)
Morris-Cafiero has suffered from hypothyroidism since she was in college. This condition has caused her to put on weight. I can totally relate to this. I have hypothyroidism and Addison’s Disease. Both of these conditions have caused me to gain weight since 2000. It has taken me a long time to accept that this is the case. In my case, my body is also unable to regulate its own temperature (something that I still struggle to accept). When I am under greater levels of stress or excitement, my symptoms are very pronounced and I can become very sweaty very quickly.
When I am under greater levels of stress or excitement, my symptoms are very pronounced and I can become very sweaty very quickly. This was very evident during my private view where I was also being interviewed by BBC Radio Gloucestershire. I was very self-conscious of the fact my hair was wet.
However, thinking about what Morris-Cafiero has been doing, makes me determined to continue. The photographs and videos of me with sweaty hair have been published in this CRJ when previously I would have hidden these from other people. Whilst I have accepted for a few years know that I look the way I do, I have had trouble with accepting the sweaty appearance. Morris-Cafiero has inspired me to look past this and embrace who I am totally.
Morris-Cafiero’s images are compelling, real and raw. They represent authenticity and bravery. It is to this that I aspire.
THE WATCHERS: a book of the Wait Watchers photographs. 2014. Kickstarter [online]. Available at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/528118868/the-watchers-a-book-of-the-wait-watchers-photograp [accessed 14 August 2018].
Figure 1: ‘I’ve Come To Accept My Appearance, But I’m Quickly Reminded That Others Have Not.’ An Overweight Award-Winning Photographer Documents Society’s ‘Critical Gaze’ Towards Obesity.. 2018. ViralSpell [online]. Available at: http://www.viralspell.com/ive-come-to-accept-my-appearance-but-im-quickly-reminded-that-others-have-not-an-overweight-photographer-documents-societys-critical-gaze-towards-obesity/ [accessed 14 August 2018].
Figure 2: Twitter. 2018. Twitter.com [online]. Available at: https://twitter.com/BBCGlos/status/1025669452187222022 [accessed 14 August 2018].