Earlier this year, Eliza Hatch was walking down the street in London when a man walked past her and told her to “cheer up.” Those two words spurred the 23-year-old photographer to create a powerful photo project about sexual harassment, aptly titled “Cheer Up Luv.”
The photo series features dozens of women in the different places they have been catcalled or sexually harassed. Each woman shared her story of sexual harassment; many instances took place in public spaces like sidewalks and street corners and public benches.
Hatch told HuffPost that after this strange man told her to “cheer up,” she became really angry.
“That single phrase, which I am used to hearing, finally irritated me so much to the point where I needed to do something about it,” she said. “It prompted me to have a conversation with my girlfriends about harassment and we ended up story swapping for over an hour, talking about sexual harassment like it was the most normal thing in the world.”
Hatch said she was prompted to start the project after her male friends expressed their “disbelief and horror” that she and her girlfriends experienced sexual harassment as much as they did.
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“I realized that it wasn’t just the harassment itself that was the problem, it was the awareness surrounding it,” she said.
Hatch said the series has been received very well, and she’s had an overwhelming amount of women of all ages, sizes and ethnicities who want to partake.
“It has been both therapeutic for the women involved and myself,” she said. “There has been an extremely positive reaction from the women who I have photographed, as they are reclaiming ownership of that experience, and turning a situation where they were once victimized into one where they are empowered.”
She added that she hopes this series can elevate women’s voices in conversations around street harassment.
“This project is for the women involved, and for people who have stories to share,” Hatch told HuffPost. “I want to give women a voice, and continue to raise awareness for an issue that was previously barely spoken about.”
Scroll below to see more from Hatch’s “Cheer Up Luv” series.
Eliza Hatch“I was walking home from work one day and I was on the phone, just about to cross the road. A guy stopped his car in the middle of the road and asked me to get in his car. I said no and tried to walk around it, so he drove his car to block my way. I tried to walk behind it but he did the same thing. He then shouted, 'Get in my car or I’ll run you over!' I then slammed my fists on the car bonnet and shouted at him, which I think shook him so it gave me some time to cross the road and run away.”
Eliza Hatch"Two summers ago I was walking to a supermarket in Marseille. A guy was getting out of his car and said to me, 'La pute c'est magnifique [Whores are beautiful],' as I walked past."
Eliza Hatch"I was on the subway, and I was approached by an older man who started asking me questions. We were the only ones on the platform, and he asked me if I was single, if I was a lesbian, and finally, 'Can I show you my penis?' He was cornering me between the platform and the edge; luckily the train pulled in at that moment, otherwise I don't know what he would have done."
Eliza Hatch"I just moved to New York and one day I decided to go downtown. I sat down on the train and one guy got on and stood right in front of me holding onto the rail. I turned my face and body to the right instead of his body in front of me. Then, I see a weird movement happening to my left, in the corner of my eye. It ended up being his penis sticking out of his zipper of his pants and he was rubbing it. I quickly turned my eyes back. I just thought it was sick that he even thought to do that right in front of my face. I am a short girl so anyone that stands in front of me I am eye level to that part of the body. There were tons of seats open and he still chose to stand in front of me. So I quickly just thought to get off at the next stop. I didn't really know what to do. It was a weird experience."
Eliza Hatch"After leaving a nightclub with my friends and my girlfriend, we decided to get a bus to another venue. As we were waiting for the bus, a man approached me and started trying to chat me up. I said straightaway that I'm a lesbian, and that I was with my girlfriend. He then took that as some sort of challenge, and proceeded to tell me I just needed his dick and tried to expose himself to me. Fortunately, my male friend stepped in and eventually he managed to make him leave. The whole incident lasted about 20 minutes in total and was quite traumatic."
Eliza Hatch“When I was 15, I was walking home from school like I always did, in my school uniform. This time, however, a man kept kissing at me from his van. I decided to ignore him since it repulsed me, but he persisted to do it and call out remarks. After walking further up the road I turned around to notice that he had stopped, parked the van, opened the doors and was coming directly at me. Luckily I was around the corner from my house, so I ran down the hill to get home and didn’t look back.”
Eliza Hatch"I was sitting on a coach traveling through Croatia, and four guys sat in the row of seats in front of me. One of them sat next to me uninvited and started making conversation. Over the next two hours he kept moving closer and closer to me, even trying to touch and stroke me. He tried to put his hand under my romper and each time I would tell him to leave me alone. There was a couple who was sitting across from us but they did nothing the whole time. When the coach stopped, I tried to move past him and he touched my bum."
Eliza Hatch“When I was about 12 or 13 me and my friends used to get the bus to school and a man who must have been about 40 tried to take photos on his phone up our skirts -- the police ended up getting called but said they couldn't do anything about it in the end.”
Eliza Hatch"I was walking down a street in Manhattan when I saw a man walking toward me. His daughter was holding his hand and his young son was behind him on a scooter. As the distance between us got shorter I could tell that he was intensely staring at me, studying my legs, my sundress, my cleavage. Just as our paths crossed he lunged toward me and whispered, 'Mmmm, I’d like to taste your chocolate.' I was most horrified that his daughter was right there, watching her father verbally assault me, while his son was behind learning from his actions."
Eliza Hatch"I was 19, and I had just moved to Paris. I was in a crowded train and there was a guy pressed up against my back, then he started to move against me. I first thought he was trying to get off the train, but then he started to whisper in my ear. I turned around to face him, trying to look angry, but then he put his hands on my hips and started grinding on me. So I stepped on his toes hard, and then stormed out of the train."
Head over to Instagram to see more from Hatch’s “Cheer Up Luv.”