Over the course of five-and-a-half years, professional photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero has been stepping out in public spaces in cities around the world, and capturing the reactions of passersby on film.
From the Venice Beach boardwalk to a crosswalk in Europe, Morris-Cafiero, 40, has documented strangers looking at her with shock, disgust and awe, and she has now collected some of the most striking photographs in her new book, The Watchers.
“We decided to take the images that were iconic from the series, as well as images that no one had seen yet, and combine them with comments – both positive and negative – that I had received while shooting the project,” Morris-Cafiero tells PEOPLE of her new book.
The comments – which are presented with positive and negative comments on opposite pages – were pulled from emails she received as well as comments on photos from her “Wait Watchers” series that were posted online.
“I used some of the comments that caused the biggest guttural reactions,” she explains.
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During the process of working on her photo series, Morris-Cafiero says she was more shocked by the online commentary than the looks she received in the photographs.
“In the photographs, I don’t know what the people are thinking, but in the comments, they attack me,” she says. “That was surprising. I’m just a regular person and I was expecting commentary about the images and quality of the photographs, but they just ripped me to shreds, or tried to.”
The Memphis resident says she doesn’t let all the negative comments affect her.
“I just laugh at them when I read them,” she says. “Then it makes me want to shoot more. It makes me want to go out and do more.”