Public sexual harassment is an insidious issue that affects countless women globally, with many incidents going unreported and society often turning a blind eye. Cheer Up Luv, a powerful photo series and platform founded by London-based photographer Eliza Hatch, seeks to confront and address this pervasive problem. Through capturing survivors in locations tied to their experiences and sharing their stories, Cheer Up Luv has become an international voice against street harassment, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality.
Eliza Hatch's decision to initiate Cheer Up Luv stems from her personal experiences growing up in London, where catcalling and harassment were distressingly common. The project aims to showcase the breadth of women's encounters with street harassment, emphasizing that seemingly harmless phrases have deeper, negative connotations. By sharing real stories, Hatch seeks to raise awareness and transform spaces where women felt vulnerable into stages for empowerment.
Photojournalism becomes a potent tool in Hatch's hands, allowing the audience to engage visually with survivors' stories. Placing women in their daily environments makes it relatable to viewers, giving them an understanding of how these experiences can occur in mundane places to anyone. The photographs serve as a focal point, emphasizing the need to turn these spaces into stages for women to speak out against harassment.
Historically, speaking out about sexual harassment has been a taboo subject for women. Cheer Up Luv challenges this silence by creating a public platform where women's voices can be heard. The project's public nature serves a dual purpose — providing a safe space for women to speak out while offering an opportunity for men to listen and understand the pervasive nature of street harassment.
Hatch adopts a collaborative approach, engaging with survivors over coffee and conversations before photographing them in locations relevant to their experiences. This process ensures the subjects feel comfortable and allows for the selection of empowering backdrops that complement their stories.
To tackle the issue of sexual harassment, ongoing conversations are crucial. Hatch advocates for denormalizing attitudes toward harassment through cooperation between men and women. Additionally, education from a young age is essential to define unacceptable behaviour and encourage a support system for women to speak out. While change may be gradual, Hatch believes that raising awareness and fostering discussions will contribute to discouraging street harassment in the future.
Since its inception in 2017, Cheer Up Luv has garnered international recognition, expanding its reach to locations like New York, Mexico, Tokyo, and partnering with the United Nations Population Fund on campaigns against sexual harassment. The project's evolution includes a podcast, video content, workshops, a shop, a mentorship program, and the curating collective Hysterical, emphasizing art's role in addressing gender, race, and identity issues.
Cheer Up Luv stands as a testament to the resilience of women against public sexual harassment. Eliza Hatch's innovative use of photojournalism and public platforms has transformed a personal frustration into a global movement. By challenging societal norms and amplifying the voices of survivors, Cheer Up Luv pushing for a world where public spaces are free from harassment, and women's stories are heard and respected.