Beauty is everywhere, regardless of money, age, race or social status, says photographer Mihaela Noroc, with her incredible portraits of women from Iceland, North Korea, Ethiopia and beyond…
Thorunn is a singer and activist who brings Icelandic women together via a popular online community. I met Thorunn in her hometown on a freezing day. But her warm personality made me forget the cold. A popular singer in Iceland, she was also a new mom to a baby girl, whom she wants to grow up happy and confident. So Thorunn started an online community called Good Sister, which drew a third of the women in her country to join in support of one another by sharing their stories and giving encouragement.
A moment of tenderness at a food market.
This is the land of many religions and ethnic groups. Samira is an ethnic Tigrayan. I met Samira in her best friend’s coffee shop. She is Muslim and her friend is Christian. While visiting this stunning country, I saw many beautiful friendships that go beyond religion. But there were also terrible conflicts, rooted in differences of ethnicity. Samira’s serene look gives me hope that kind-hearted people like her will make this world a better place.
Rarely have I seen such a concentration of uniforms; they are everywhere in this society. This woman was a guide at a military museum.
Sona is celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, and among the most spectacular gatherings I witnessed in my travels. A time to forgive and to be forgiven, Holi marks the coming of spring, when good triumphs over evil.
Magda regularly organizes fashion shows in which the models are women in wheelchairs. In 2005, Magda was a passenger in a terrible car accident. Something I noticed traveling the world is how, in so many places, people in wheelchairs are often hidden away from the public, condemned to a life of isolation. Sometimes it is because getting outside is too difficult, due to a lack of accessible housing.
Magda wants to change the way people in wheelchairs are treated, at least in her country, through some amazing initiatives. She regularly organizes fashion shows in which the models are ordinary women who use wheelchairs. These events show that a disability does not mean a woman is not talented, capable, and beautiful. She has given confidence to many women who, since working with her, have started families and became mothers. Magda herself is the mother of a six-year-old daughter. I feel privileged when I meet people like her. Through their passion, strength, and generosity, they bring so much joy and support to others.
This photo was taken just before this woman's performance in a traditional dance.
A local woman in Havana who wishes only to finish her studies and become a nurse.
Captain Berenice Torres is a helicopter pilot for the Mexican Federal Police. This brave woman, who is also a mother, is part of a special forces unit to fight drug cartels, or to rescue people from natural disasters. When she talks about her work, the passion in her eyes is impressive.
Anais has a Malian mother and a French father. When she travels to Mali, people consider her to be white. When she’s in Europe, she’s seen as black. But Anais says she feels both African and European, even if on any given day her clothing expresses a particular part of her heritage.
Mahsa is a graphic designer and is proud of the fact that from the time she turned eighteen, she has been financially independent. Her name means “like a moon” in Persian. When she was an adolescent, her father insisted that she study to become a doctor, but Mahsa was more interested in the arts and she chose to become a graphic designer. She is proud that from the time she turned eighteen, she has been financially independent, and soon plans to open her own firm.
More and more tribes of Amazonia are starting to adopt modern clothes for everyday life. But they are still keeping their traditional clothes for important events. I photographed this young woman in her wedding outfit.
A while ago, Jade took out a loan, bought a professional camera and started to learn photography. She dreams of traveling and taking photos all over the world. I had the same dream and it came true.
Anja is Belgian with Polish origins and dreams to compete in the Paralympic Games. You can’t imagine what a joyful woman Ania is. She has one of the most impressive stories I’ve ever heard. She was born without a right leg, in Poland, and her mother abandoned her in a hospital, begging the doctor to take care of her. At nineteen months old, she was adopted by a Belgian family, where she had a bright childhood.
She told me that her parents were amazing. They adopted more children with disabilities and they all grew up happily in the countryside of Belgium, surrounded by farm animals and enjoying nature.
Ania always loved sports. As a kid, she was running on the rocks and in the forests, always feeling free and independent. She broke her prosthetic several times. Back then it was impossible to have a proper one for sport because she doesn’t have a femur. Every night before falling asleep, she imagined herself running like an athlete. Her only dream was to have a proper prosthetic for sport. Ania thought if she became a well-known athlete, her biological mother would see her in the media and she would have the chance to find her in Poland.
Years later, determined to be an athlete, she convinced doctors to take her into a medical trial, and today she has an unique prosthetic and can finally run like she used to imagine when she was a kid.
Lisa was coming from a trip when I met her. She carried a huge backpack and had many interesting memories. When she was eleven years old, she had been hit by a tram. She survived, miraculously, but was left with many scars. As she told me about that, her cheeks blushed bright red.
For many years, she felt very insecure with her skin. She was in some bands, but was too afraid to sing in front of an audience because of her blushing and the scars from the accident. In time, she realized that beauty is about being yourself, natural and authentic. She understood that the accident gave her a second life, and she now lives it with confidence.
I met this lovely lady at a local market. For many people around the world, this is what shopping looks like. They don’t have their own cars, or big homes, or bank accounts. But most of them are great examples of dignity, strength, generosity, and honesty. If more of those who have fortunes and power would learn from these wonderful people, we would live in a much better world.
The Atlas of Beauty: Woman of the World in 500 Portraits by Mihaela Noric is out now, published in hardback by Particular Books.
Since 2013, Mihaela Noroc has travelled the world with her backpack and camera, taking photos of everyday women to showcase the diversity and beauty all around us. It started as a small personal project but Mihaela’s photographers gained thousands of fans on social media. Her blog now has over one million followers.
The Atlas of Beauty contains photographs of women from over 50 countries and show that beauty is everywhere, regardless of money, race or social status, and comes in many different sizes and colours. Noroc's portraits feature women in their native environments, from the Amazon rainforest to markets in India, London city streets and parks in Harlem.
For more on the book and The Atlas of Beauty project, see theatlasofbeauty.com.