When Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc first started out, her only two subjects were her mother and sister. Then a 2013 backpacking trip to Ethiopia inspired her to work on a much larger scale — she spent the next four years photographing about 2,000 women in 53 countries. The culmination of her project is the book Atlas of Beauty: Women of the World in 500 Portraits, out September 26 from Ten Speed Press.
Noroc’s lush, colorful photographs are accompanied by each subject’s story, written as vignettes alongside each portrait. She met a pop singer in Iceland, a vegetable vendor in Guatemala, and a helicopter pilot who works for the Mexican Federal Police. Her other subjects included a two-time cancer survivor, a poet, a nurse-in-training, and a photographer like herself. An array of nationalities and cultures converge in the portfolio: in one striking image taken in Ethiopia, a Muslim woman sits at a coffee shop owned by her best friend, who is Christian. At another shoot in Berlin, a Malian-French woman discusses being considered white in Mali and black in Europe, and how she sees herself as both.
“The idea is that we are all part of the same diverse family,” Noroc said in an interview. “In the end, beauty is in our differences. It’s about being yourself, natural and authentic, not about trends, race, or social status.” Click ahead to see some of her photographs: traditional straw-skirted wedding dresses in Ecuador, an Iranian graphic designer wearing a black lace headscarf, and a young Nepalese woman looking back from a yellow row-boat.
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