We knew back in 2017 that Eliza Hatch was special, when we saw her project Cheer Up Luv – a photo series documenting women and non-binary people who had experienced sexual assault or harassment, in the location in which it happened, telling their stories. It’s since gone on to become something incredible, though, documenting the stories of womxn across the globe and helping to raise awareness of pertinent issues and inciting genuine change.
The project, Eliza tells us, “has escalated in a way that I couldn't possibly have predicted,” expanding her photographic work into the field of activism through public speaking, workshops and exhibitions. Most notably, Eliza undertook a partnership with the United Nations Population Fund in 2018, when she was “asked to create a campaign to highlight and retell women’s accounts of sexual harassment on public transport in Sri Lanka, after hearing the statistic that 90 per cent of women experience it, with only four per cent ever reporting it.” The project was shot in Colombo and culminated in a global campaign titled Don’t Look Away which included a documentary, interactive website and social media campaign (which were viewed by nine million people), posters installed around the city, and an exhibition in Colombo’s town hall.
A year later, Eliza took the plunge and moved to New York to continue her partnership with the UN, attending the UN General Assembly and later, the International Conference of Population Development in Nairobi. It was here that her interest in pivoting her focus – from being an activist herself to championing others doing amazing work – was piqued, and she began her recently released work Chnge.
“After I returned from the conference in Nairobi, I was inspired by all of the youth activists I’d interviewed out there,” Eliza recalls. “I decided to come up with a photo campaign of my own back in New York, and speak to youth activists who were paving the way for change in their chosen fields.” She reached out to young people who were speaking out about causes Eliza thought were important and needed amplifying, with the understanding from her own experience of how important creating a community around your cause is. “I was already friends with a few activists in NY through my own community, so I used that to expand my network and began DMing a few people on Instagram, as well as putting out an open call,” she says.
GalleryEliza Hatch: Chnge. Luis
Finally settling on five sitters – Nadya Okamoto, Sophie Sandberg, Luis Hernandez, Obrian Rosario, and Lucy Ivey – to kickstart the project, those documented in Chnge are working in the crucial areas of period poverty, street harassment, gender equality, integration, gun control, and climate change.
Nadya, for example, founded @periodmovement when she was just 16 years old, after her family experienced living without a home for several months. “During this time she had many conversations with homeless women in much worse living situations, who inspired her to learn more about menstrual inequity,” Eliza explains, relaying a conversation she had with Nadya in which she said: “It’s 2019, and yet, 33 US states still have a sales tax on period products because they are considered luxury items (unlike Rogaine and Viagra), period-related pain is a leading cause of absenteeism amongst girls in school, and periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries. Over half of our global population menstruates for an average of 40 years of their life on a monthly basis and has been doing so since the beginning of humankind. It’s about time we take action.”
Luis Hernandez, on the other hand, is a gun-control activist and the executive director of @YouthOverGuns. “Luis was inspired to start campaigning for gun violence-prevention solutions after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy, a school shooting in 2018. He saw that there was a void in the national conversation around gun violence prevention,” Eliza tells us. In their interview, Luis told Eliza he joined the movement due to black and brown “young folks” who are “most impacted by the epidemic” being “left out of the conversation”. His work has seen him “mobilise thousands of people from across the tri-state area for a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Demanding that leaders and other stakeholders invest resources into local, grassroots gun violence-prevention organisations that work towards reducing gun violence in marginalised communities.”
Nadya and Luis are just two of the amazing subjects of Chnge, and Eliza also explains how the project was made in collaboration with ethical T-shirt company Chnge, meaning that each activist is pictured wearing a T-shirt with corresponding slogans, and in a location related to their cause. “For example,” Eliza outlines, “I photographed Sophie Sandberg on the Williamsburg Bridge, chalking a message on the ground wearing a shirt saying, ‘Teach girls to be somebodies instead of somebody’s.’ The shirt’s messaging encompasses Sophie’s line of activism of campaigning for gender equality and against the sexual objectification she had experienced growing up in New York. The location I picked also allowed Sophie to show the process of her platform, Catcalls of NYC.”
The result is a powerful series, highlighting the determination and incredible work of these young people. Through conversation and careful direction which is more like a collaboration, Eliza’s strength lies in her ability to draw out confidence and comfort in her sitters, allowing their portrait to reflect the importance of their cause.
“It was so interesting meeting and working with younger activists from different backgrounds, who are all engaging in important social and global issues,” Eliza reflects. “I hope people look at the project as an opportunity to learn about a variety of different causes out there, and that you’re never too young, or old, to get involved! It would also be amazing if it inspires people to join forces and support a campaign that means something to them. Activism can sometimes seem daunting, and it can seem difficult to know whether you’re making a difference or not. But there are so many easy ways that you can get involved, and if you can’t get involved yourself, you can just amplify and share the voices of others doing great work. Every action can make a difference, no matter how small!”
GalleryEliza Hatch: Chnge
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.