Eliza Hatch’s latest series focuses on the overlooked harassment routinely faced by key workers
Having found hundreds of testimonies via an open call on @cheerupluv, Eliza took to FaceTime to photograph women and non-binary doctors, nurses, supermarket workers, post office employees, teachers and midwives.
- Ruby Boddington
- 13 August 2021
During the pandemic, “when there was a particular focus on key workers and the pressures they were facing,” Eliza Hatch – the founder of Cheer Up Luv, a platform highlighting stories of sexual harassment across the UK, the US, Japan, Holland, Sri Lanka and Mexico – started hearing stories “of a different kind of pressure from the frontline.” Specifically, she received two story submissions of sexual harassment among key workers and so, she put out an open call to see if anyone else had similar stories to tell. “I was shocked when I received 100s of testimonies,” she recalls. This revelation stirred something inside Eliza, and she set out to create an extension of Cheer Up Luv titled #FrontlineHarassment, “a photo series focusing on the experiences routinely faced by key workers, that rarely take centre stage.”
The series was created while adhering to Covid-19 social distancing rules. It visually and conceptually follows the same pattern as Cheer Up Luv in the sense that every subject is photographed in the location (or a similar location) to where their story took place. Each portrait is also accompanied by a passage of text, but though Eliza is familiar with this format, shooting #FrontlineHarassment provided a host of new technical hurdles to jump. Surprisingly though, Eliza’s new limitations proved to be a good thing: “Although the quality of the image you get is not the same, I really like the freedom shooting on FaceTime gives you. You can photograph anyone regardless of their location, and I find it really exciting directing the person posing and the person holding (or positioning) the camera. It’s always really satisfying when it goes well!”
Being able to shoot each subject in a significant location means the series continues the poignancy begun by Cheer Up Luv. When viewing each portrait, we are transported into the story and are forced to recognise the person telling it. Eliza made the decision to photograph each participant in their uniform, highlighting how their harassment took place while they were simply trying to go about their day-to-day work. Each is then depicted in a powerful manner, looking straight at the viewer, often shot from below. “I wanted to use the surroundings as a stage for the participants to speak out on, and portray their strength, resilience and empowerment by taking back control of the situation, looking directly down the lens of the camera, challenging you,” Eliza explains.
The series features a host of women and non-binary people, including doctors, nurses, supermarket workers, post office employees, teachers and midwives. As Eliza started to post testimonies online, she received even more submissions. Clearly, it’s an issue that needs addressing and one that isn’t slowing down. Eliza, therefore, hopes those who view the images and read the stories will “take a moment to think about all added emotional labour these key workers have to take on going about their day to day jobs, whilst being lauded as ‘heroes’ in the press, and being belittled with minuscule pay rises from the government,” especially during the pandemic.
In turn, the series is not simply a series of portraits but a call for change – systemic, wide-ranging change that will not only value the work these people do as it should be valued, but also ensure that everyone who goes to work feels safe doing so. By confronting her audience with the parallels between how frontline workers are talked about and how they are treated, Eliza hopes people “have a bit more basic respect and empathy for our essential workers who shouldn’t have to put up with what they do on the frontline.”
#FrontlineHarassment aside, the past year or so has been a busy one for Eliza. When the pandemic first hit she was living in New York and ended up moving back to the UK “right in the middle of it, so that was quite chaotic!” Once settled in London, she spent her time “developing different projects and learning skills I usually wouldn’t have had the time for, whilst also radically changing up the way I work.” What this means, she jokes, is that “like everyone else in lockdown, I started a podcast.” And there’s plenty more to come from Cheer Up Luv too: “I have a project on the go but can’t go into details at the moment, so stay tuned! I’m also having an open call for a new photo series I’m working on, so make sure to follow my stories over on @cheerupluv.”
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Eliza Hatch: Sascha, from #FrontlineHarassment (Copyright © Eliza Hatch/Cheer Up Luv, 2021)
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.