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The Atlas of Beauty – capturing cultural diversity through portraits of women

© Mihaela Noroc
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From inspiration to lifetime project: Photographer Mihaela Noroc captures the diversity of the world’s beauty.

From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, from remote Himalayan villages all the way to bustling Manhattan – 30-year-old photographer Mihaela Noroc spent three years travelling the world to fill her life’s dream, an atlas of female beauty, with images from every country of the world. Watch our video portrait, shot in South Africa, for immediate insights. In a time and age where the internet propagates looks and fashion at lightning speed, where kids from Anchorage to Zwickau wear the same sneakers, it has become Noroc’s personal mission to highlight the differences between people and cultures, encouraging her protagonists to celebrate these differences. When she talks about her atlas, the Romanian’s eyes start to sparkle. “It’s crazy how this project has changed my own view of the world. I think that my message, i. e. to value our differences and consider them enriching, is extremely timely and topical.”

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Beyond stunning pictures, Mihaela Noroc mostly aims to get to know the stories of the women she photographs. What makes them proud? What are their biggest everyday challenges? What do they dream of? Over time, she has become a bona fide cultural expert. Whether Indian caste system, the meaning of traditional Nepalese jewellery or Romanian Christmas rituals – Mihaela Noroc has become familiar with a huge wealth of different cultural idiosyncrasies, increasingly becoming an ambassador of diversity.

© Mihaela Noroc

But what prompts someone to leave a settled life – with a steady job and marriage – behind to pursue a vague idea? Mihaela realised that this project was essential for her happiness. During the first year, she lived off her savings, while the second year was financed through a Kickstarter campaign. “I’ve never been this happy and fulfilled. The Atlas of Beauty has given me a purpose in life.” At the time of writing, Mihaela is working on her first book – and probably already on her next flight to chase the world’s elusive beauty. Enjoy our video portrait of Mihaela in South Africa here. And if you’d like to support The Atlas of Beauty project, find more information here.

© Mihaela Noroc