Meet the Photographer Giving Everyday Sexism a Voice

‘Cheer Up Luv’ is the beautiful photography project documenting women’s stories of street harassment in London

"Cheer Up Luv" by Eliza Hatch
Idil – ‘Each time I was at a bus stop, each time I was alone except for the men, and each time I was in my school uniform’

Eliza Hatch’s Instagram project “Cheer Up Luv” has been making waves in the photography and feminist communities. Pairing tales of sexual harassment with stunning film photographs of the women behind the stories, Hatch’s work paves the way for viewers to recognise how internalised misogyny impacts our day-to-day lives. We interviewed her to find out more about the project.

"Cheer Up Luv" by Eliza Hatch
Jess – ‘I refused to look towards the direction of the caller but eventually they stood right in front of me giving me no option other than to look at them’

Could you briefly explain what you do and what your project is about?

“Cheer Up Luv” is a photojournalism project dedicated to telling women’s stories of sexual harassment in public. It covers all forms of harassment, and highlights how any form of it — ranging from being told to “cheer up” to being physically assaulted — is unacceptable. I interview women and take their pictures in public settings, using the environment where they where once harassed as a stage for them to speak out on. 

"Cheer Up Luv" by Eliza Hatch
Julie – ‘I said no to him and then he said I was being arrogant, I didn’t say a word’

How did you start, and when did you get into photography?

I started the project in January this year. I have always loved photography, but it had always been something I used for pleasure. I occasionally did photography projects at University when I was studying Illustration, but this is the first time I have used it for a purpose. 

What drove you to start this project?

The themes behind “Cheer Up Luv” have been a constant factor in my life, especially growing up in London. When you grow up in a big city, you are exposed to so much more at a younger age. I am grateful for growing up in London, it definitely toughened me up. But I do sometimes wonder, if I’d grown up somewhere else, would I have been exposed to the same things? Should girls even need to toughen up and be used to harassment at such a young age? When we used to go to school in our uniforms, we had vans beeping at us when they drove past us at bus stops, it was just a normal part of our day. It was only this year, when I was verbally harassed on the way to a friend’s house, that it really angered me for the first time. After speaking to a group of my female friends about how normal it was, and then speaking to a group of male friends who didn’t believe us, I then realised that something had to be done about it . 

"Cheer Up Luv" by Eliza Hatch
Naomi – ‘I was drifting off to sleep on a train, and I felt something brush against my arm’

What has the reception been like?

When I first launched the project, I was surprised at the reactions I got. Nearly everything has been positive, and I have had an overwhelming amount of women share their stories and want to contribute. It seems that nearly all women of all ages, races and backgrounds have experienced some form of street harassment at some stage in their lives. 

"Cheer Up Luv" by Eliza Hatch
Marta – ‘He saw me and waited until I was cycling past and then said, ‘Bitch”

Do you think it’s important to document this kind of harassment and oppression?

It’s one of the reasons I started this project. I need to have a creative outlet, and through meeting these women and photographing them, I can fulfill that whilst spreading awareness about an issue that needs to be discussed. I also find that people engage with issues when they are in a visual format, so photography definitely helps when it comes to raising awareness about sexual harassment, because you can actually look into the eyes of the woman while she is telling you her story. 

Olivia – ‘The whole thing lasted less than 20 seconds but it felt like a lifetime’

Do you have any other projects you’re currently working on?

“Cheer Up Luv” is 100% a full time job at the moment. I would love to keep expanding it, and I have plans to move it to different countries so I can incorporate the stories of more women who have got in touch with me. Eventually I would love for “Cheer Up Luv” to be more mobile, and I would like to do a series of four cities, London being the first. 

Check out Eliza’s work on her website and Instagram.

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