We love to celebrate the women who offer us a different point of view on life, events, people. Those women who take a very unique route of how they process life around them. With their perspective, we have a privilege to get a fresh look at the same events, yet understanding them at a higher level of our consciousness. That kind of a woman takes guts and risks and labor of love.
Today, I am presenting to you Mihaela Noroc, the Author of THE ATLAS OF BEAUTY, a story of the womanhood as it is lived and experienced throughout the world.
How did you come up with the idea of the project?
In 2013, a trip to Ethiopia changed my perspective. In that moment of my life, I was working in other fields, just to make a living, and photography was a hobby.
Right away, I was fascinated by the women I saw during that vacation. Some were living in tribes, where nudity was normal. Others were part of conservative communities, covering their heads. And still others, in the big cities, were embracing modern life.
Most of them were struggling and working hard, sometimes facing discrimination as women. But in these harsh environments, they were shining like stars — with dignity, strength, and beauty.
If there’s so much diversity and so many stories in just one country, I surmised, what about the rest of the world? I realized that the wonderful women of our planet deserve much more attention, and that true beauty is usually unnoticed. In that moment, I started to dream, and found the strength to break from my comfort zone, quit my job, and start this project.
What is “beauty” for you?
For me, “beauty” is “diversity.” It is much more than what we often see today in mass media. If you put the words “beautiful woman” into Google, you’ll mostly see very similar images of seductive women. But on the streets of the world, beauty has many more facets. We just have to open our eyes and see it.
In the end, beauty is in our differences, it’s about being yourself, natural and authentic, not about trends, race, or social status.
In your opinion, what makes a woman beautiful?
All women are beautiful in their own way. In The Atlas of Beauty, women don’t play roles, they are not perfect. But they are natural and authentic, proving that real beauty means being yourself.
There’s a lot of pressure on women to look a certain way, so sometimes it’s a struggle to be yourself, to make yourself accepted as you are. But I hope this project will encourage more women, and also men, to follow their own path, to explore their own beauty, without feeling constrained.
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Why do you photograph only women?
When I started in photography, sixteen years ago, my first subjects, actually, were my mother and my sister.
Over the years I tried different types of photography, I had my time of experimenting, but in the end I realized that as an artist I have to focus on a niche, to explore it as much as possible, to understand it, to develop my skills around it. And this niche for me was photographing women, because this was the thing that made me curious, that, indirectly, made me discover myself, as a woman.
There’s so much pressure on women to look a certain way, everywhere in the world, and there’s also so much discrimination against them, and I realized that an honest project about women of the world, about their struggles and dreams, is really necessary today.
How was it to photograph in countries such as Afghanistan, North Korea, and Iran?
In Afghanistan, I traveled in a remote area called Wakhan Corridor. The war line was very close, condemning this place to total isolation. People were living there like their ancestors lived hundreds of years ago, so photography was like a miracle for them. They were incredibly happy to see themselves in photos and I was constantly invited into every home to photograph each member of the family.
In North Korea, I was always accompanied by local guides, like any foreigner who decides to visit the country. But I was able to walk on the streets, to approach women and take a glimpse into their daily lives.
In Iran, locals are incredibly friendly with foreigners, and most women love to be photographed. It’s actually one of the few countries outside the Western world where I’ve rarely been refused.
In all corners of the world, from the streets of Manhattan to isolated Afghan villages, I felt there’s something deep that connects us all, as women and as human beings. It’s impossible to explain this in words, but I hope the photos from the book will express this feeling.
What is your aim with this book?
I want to honor the wonderful women of our world. To show that their beauty has no bounds, so acceptance, love, and compassion shouldn’t either.
I hope this book will get into many homes around the world, convincing more people that diversity is a treasure and not a trigger for conflicts and hate. We are very different but at the same time we are all part of the same family.
What is your favorite portrait from the book?
What is the story behind it?
All the portraits are very special to me, so I can’t name one as being my favorite. But I will tell the story of the portrait from the cover of my book.
I was walking around the, India, a holy place of Hinduism, where thousands of pilgrims come every day, and I saw a young pilgrim preparing to make an offering. Her serene expression seemed to be from another world, and the morning light was great. I was so fascinated by this magic moment that I entered deep into the river and I even forgot that my phone was in my pocket. In such atemporal moments, objects don’t mean anything. I asked her permission to take a photo and after that I let her continue the ritual.
Usually, I try to spend more time with the women that I photograph. I take a few photos and listen to their stories. But this time, I didn’t have the chance, so we spent only a few seconds together. But her eyes, her stance, her outfit, her gesture told me a mystical story that words never could.
Share With Others This Incredible Story
— Celebrate Woman (@DiscoverSelf) September 17, 2017