‘Diversity is a treasure and not a trigger for conflicts and hate … we are all part of the same family.’
Inspired by a trip to Ethiopia in 2013, a Romanian photographer spent the next four years traveling the globe in search of female beauty. The more she found, the more boundless her concept of beauty became.
Mihaela Noroc compiled 500 stunning, diverse portraits of women from 50 different countries in a 352-page book, “The Atlas of Beauty“.
Far from stumbling across a universal formula, the photographer concluded that true beauty has nothing to do with fashion, race, or social status—rather, beauty lies in “our differences.”
“While traveling, I noticed that there’s a lot of pressure on women to look and behave in a certain way,” Noroc told My Modern Met.
“In some environments, it is the pressure to look attractive. In others, on the contrary, it is the pressure to look modest.”
“But every woman should be free to explore her own beauty without feeling any pressure from marketing campaigns, trends, or social norms,” she added.
Traveling freely as a tourist through many countries, in every continent beside Antarctica, Noroc also chose to explore countries isolated by conflict or politics, such as North Korea and Iran, according to the report.
In expanding the diversity of her catalogue, she found that Iranian women were among her most welcoming, willing subjects.
Always taking time to talk with her subjects, Noroc, a polyglot, makes sure to capture women in context—whether at home, at work, at a festival, or in nature—preferring natural, makeup-free faces.
“If our outsides are natural and authentic, our insides will be more visible,” she told My Modern Met. “We need to learn to be ourselves, but to do that we also have to learn to let other people be themselves.”
“Through my camera, I try to dive into their eyes, because their eyes will always say an interesting story,” she told Insider.
Men are beautiful too, she clarifies, but she chose women as her subjects for simplicity and affinity: as a woman herself, she empathizes with both their dreams and their struggles.
As Noroc’s work gained in popularity, donations flooded in, allowing the photographer to start traveling full time. Yet as the project grew, so did Noroc’s sense of imperative.
“I felt a lot of pressure but I also understood that I have to work harder,” she told Insider, “I have to capture more diversity, find more inspiring stories, and I can really send a message that will be heard.”
Noroc has been taking pictures since the age of 16. Her sister and mother were her first subjects, and a love for capturing the candid beauty of women was born.
Discouraged from pursuing photography as a career by her teachers, it wasn’t until Noroc’s 2013 trip to Ethiopia that she was reunited with her passion and calling, according to Insider.
Noroc showcases portraits from her “Atlas of Beauty” collection on her website, and on Instagram, where her globetrotting adventures continue.
These days, Noroc is accompanied by her baby daughter, Natalia.
Noroc maintains that real beauty comes from within and inspires “serenity and humanity.” She hopes that her book, her work, and her message will touch people around the world.
“Diversity is a treasure and not a trigger for conflicts and hate,” she told My Modern Met. “We are very different, but at the same time we are all part of the same family.”
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