When you truly want something, you go after it—that’s what photographer Mihaela Noroc believes.
The 31-year-old Romanian photographer quit her job 2 years ago and has been on the road with her backpack and camera ever since.
“I photograph women around the world to show that diversity is our greatest treasure,” she said.
Her decision was influenced when she traveled to Ethiopia in 2013.
“I discovered an amazing mosaic of cultures and traditions. I realized that I could combine my two greatest passions for a while: taking portraits of women and traveling,” Noroc said in an email.
Noroc started a project called “The Atlas of Beauty,” which documents her photographs and travels.
The atlas, she said, “is about our planet’s diversity shown through portraits of women.”
In the beginning, it was “just a small personal project, funded with small savings, known only in my country,” Noroc said. But, as she gained recognition on social media, people started to donate to the project, and she is now able to continue her work and keep it independent. Next, she hopes to publish a book of her photography so far.
“I hope that the portraits from The Atlas of Beauty can challenge many misconceptions that exist around the world,” Noroc said. “Through my photography I want to capture that feeling of warmth and serenity, which is so specific to women and comes to balance all the negativity we see in the media.”
So far, Noroc has traveled to more than 50 countries, taking pictures of women. “I prefer to photograph natural faces, without a lot of makeup,” she said. She also tries to capture the environment around the women.
“I captured beauty in Brazilian favelas, rough neighborhoods of Colombia, in some isolated area of Afghanistan, in an Iranian mosque, on the Tibetan Plateau, in North Korea, in the Amazon Rainforest, but also in classy areas of Oxford, in downtown New York, or in Istanbul,” she said.
Noroc said she often has only one minute to take a portrait after meeting a woman on the street.
“Other times, I maybe spend one hour, photographing her, listening to her story, if she agrees to meet me again,” she said.
Due to language barriers, “talking becomes body language,” she said.
She captures the stories through the women’s eyes. “Their eyes will always say an interesting story,” she said.
Noroc’s love for photographing began when she was 16, when she got her first camera, “a very old one,” she said.
“I was too shy to go on the street and take photos of strangers so my first subjects were my mother and my sister,” Noroc said in the email. Since she only had two subjects, both of whom were women, it made her realize her love for photographing women.
She doesn’t photograph men because she wants to focus on one single theme.
“Of course men are beautiful too, but I chose to photograph women because I’m a woman too, I understand better their struggles and dreams so every photo that I take is also a way to know myself better,” she said.
This year she said, she will still continue her journey to travel around the globe, “because there is much more diversity to capture and much more stories to hear,” she said.
By next year, she said she hope to have had enough images and stories to publish the first edition of The Atlas of Beauty, “creating an universe of diversity, between two covers.”
After photographing women in more than 50 continues, Noroc said she has a different perspective when it comes to beauty.
“I can say that beauty is everywhere, and it’s not a matter of cosmetics, money, race or social status, but more about being yourself,” she said.
“I think everybody has to cultivate their own beauty, their own qualities, rather than copying something that doesn’t suits. In the end, an original is always better than a copy.”