Haley Morris-Cafiero
January 07, 2016 02:35 PM

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.

"Blondie"/Haley Morris-Cafiero
Haley Morris-Cafiero

“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.

The Watchers
Haley Morris-Cafiero

“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.”

"Gelato"/Haley Morris-Cafiero
Haley Morris-Cafiero

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.”

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