A British, Malta-based photographer has explored what self-respect means to young Maltese women in the face of online pressure to hypersexualise themselves.
When Matt Thompson first came to Malta, he was struck by how Maltese women presented themselves online. In the face of the trap of “over-sexualisation”, many young islanders were exploring alternative ways of presenting themselves on social media.
“When I arrived in Malta, I photographed a young woman named Martina who I found on Instagram. I was struck by her maturity and what she would later describe as her ‘comfort in my uncomfortableness’. As I dug deeper into the Instagram web, I was struck by how women chose to present themselves,” Thompson explained.
The reasons for curating their online presence in this way were complex, Thompson mused, but what emerged was that it boiled down to “strong self-respect”.
Cue in “Young Maltese Women”, a minimal photographic series of eight island-born women. Each model’s portrait is captured against a warm brown backdrop, all donning a white t-shirt. Each of them hold brooding yet calming expressions, while they unapologetically look directly into Thompson’s lens.
Near each portrait is a handwritten note on what self-respect means to each woman.
“As an archaeologist in the construction industry, my strong sense of self guides me through the myriad of prejudices I face as a woman working in a predominately man’s world,” model Erica’s note reads.
“Self-respect means being who I am for no one but myself,” another by Anne reads.
For Martina, 20 was when she felt comfortable in her “uncomfortable”.
“It’s quite a powerful feeling, to take hold of your insecurities, gain self-respect and become commutable in your own skin,” she wrote.
Thompson hopes to exhibit the project this year if COVID-19 restrictions permit it.
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