Three years ago, Mihaela Noroc quit her job, packed up her belongings in Romania and shipped out on a wild adventure. The 30-year-old photographer had just one aim in mind: capture feminine beauty.
Today, Noroc has created a blog, The Atlas of Beauty, to showcase the hundreds of women she’s met on her journey across more than 45 countries. Although she’s only been working on this project since 2013, it actually began much earlier. “My father is a painter, so I discovered the beauty of colors while spending a lot of time around his work, during my childhood,” she tells Yahoo Beauty.
When Noroc was 16 years old, she was given her first camera as a gift. “I started taking photos,” she explains. “In the beginning, I was too shy to go outside my home with the camera, so my first subjects were my mother and my sister. That’s how I started to explore the feminine faces, trying to capture that moment of serenity and kindness, which expresses the inner beauty.”
What first began as a small project, funded exclusively through her personal savings, grew into a treasure trove of worldwide beauty that has now reached millions of eyes.
Noroc has trekked across every continent except Antarctica. She’s captured women in the packed markets of Mumbai, “rough neighborhoods” of Colombia, Amazonian rain forests, mosques of Iran, deserted territories in Afghanistan, upscale venues in Oxford, even the streets of New York City — and that’s just a smattering of her locations.
When choosing a subject to photograph, Noroc looks for natural beauty and lively surroundings, generally having about 30 seconds to snap a photo. If the woman is generous with her time and her backstory, Noroc may stay up to an hour. “I try to dive into the eyes of every woman, to go beyond the outer beauty and discover what is inside and cannot be expressed through words,” she explains. “I think the eyes never lie, so I always focus on them.”
Noroc’s primary aim is to show beauty through diversity. She says that we see an “atlas of wars, conflicts and fears” every day in the news media. She hopes her atlas stands as a counterpoint to the terror, helping people to preserve their own individual beauty while respecting what makes other cultures and races just as marvelous. “I think everyone has to cultivate their own beauty,” she explains. “We should learn to be ourselves. We should learn to let others be themselves. Beauty is diversity, and it can teach us to be tolerant.”
Her goal is to put out a book version of The Atlas of Beauty in 2017. In the meantime, thanks in part to the support of her followers, Noroc continues to travel, collecting women’s photographs and stories and changing our perception of what it means to be both beautiful and different.