In 2013, 30-year-old photographer Mihaela Noroc quit her job in Romania to backpack around the world full time.
Since then, she has visited every continent except for Antarctica and a total of about 50 countries, photographing hundreds of women along the way for her project, dubbed Atlas of Beauty.
And she’s still going.
“More than ever, I think our world needs an Atlas of Beauty to show that diversity is something beautiful, not a reason for conflict,” Noroc explains to Tech Insider. “I hope that the portraits from The Atlas of Beauty can challenge many misconceptions that exist around the world.”
Noroc’s proficiency in five languages helps her speak with subjects either on the street or in their homes, but sometimes she relies on translators or body language alone to communicate.
Currently, she’s looking for funding to continue her journey, and hopes by 2017 to have enough images to publish a book.
This is Mihaela Noroc posing in Bogotá, Colombia. The 30-year-old photographer travels the world taking photographs of women from different cultures.
Noroc has spent three years traveling for her “Atlas of Beauty” series. This woman was photographed on the streets of Moldova.
“I walk hours every day, in very different environments and I try to find relevant faces and stories for each place,” Noroc tells Tech Insider. This woman was in Peru.
She also finds subjects online. Sometimes she’s invited back to their homes. Here, an Ecuadorian woman in her living room.
This woman is a market seller from Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Noroc photographed women in the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. “Although they live in a rough and isolated environment, Wakhi people are amazingly welcoming and friendly,” Noroc says.
So far, Noroc has been to around 50 countries. Here, a woman smiles in Omo Valley, Ethiopia.
She tries to capture each woman in her surroundings. This woman was snapped in Thorunn, Iceland.
“I prefer to photograph natural faces, without a lot of make-up,” Noroc says. Here, a woman sits at a tea house in Istanbul, Turkey.
Noroc says this Ethiopian woman is a Muslim, but her best friend is Christian. “While traveling in Ethiopia in February, I admired the way Christians and Muslims got along,” she says. “But in the same country, there are dozens of terrible ethnic conflicts.”
Noroc visited Kichwa, Ecuador in the Amazon Rainforest and took pictures of the women there.
She has been expanding her project to include a wider range and diversity of subjects, both old and young. This picture was taken in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
“In some countries I approach 10 women and maybe only one accepts,” she says. “In other places, everybody accepts.” This was in Maori, New Zealand.
“Usually, in Western countries, I’m never refused [when I ask to take a picture],” Noroc says. This woman poses in Harlem, New York.
An Uzbek woman in Kyrgyzstan.
Here, a Buddhist nun poses in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Noroc photographed this woman in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
This woman is a computer engineer from Cairo, Egypt.
Traveling across the Java Sea in Indonesia.
Going to North Korea was like “stepping [onto] a totally different planet, with different rules,” Noroc says. This woman was photographed in Pyongyang, North Korea.
This woman was spotted in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Noroc says this woman in Guangzhou, China, was on her way to the hospital with her mother and husband to give birth.
A woman standing on a pier in the Baltic Sea, Finland.
A painter, in her studio in Valparaiso, Chile.
A woman poses on the streets of Havana, Cuba.
A ballerina displays her talent in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
“For me, beauty is diversity, [it’s] what makes us unique,” Noroc says. “I also believe that beauty can teach us to be more tolerant.” Below, a woman in the streets of Iran.
A young woman in Cape Town, South Africa.
A woman in Oxford, UK.
Wearing traditional dress in Otavalo, Ecuador.
“[In India] I photographed subjects from very different environments,” Noroc tells Tech Insider. “From poor women living in slums to Sonam Kapoor, one of the most popular Indian actresses.” Here, an Indian woman poses at a train station.
A young woman in Medellin, Colombia.
“Many people tell me how the project changed the way they see beauty and diversity,” Noroc tells Tech Insider. A woman on the streets of Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
But her project has received criticism for showing a narrow a definition of beauty. “There is also negative feedback sometimes, but you have to accept it, even if you find it unfair,” she says. Below, a redheaded woman posing in San Francisco, USA.
“The internet can make you very popular but also very exposed to different opinions,” she says. “Which is not bad, in the end.” A blond woman outside a home in Latvia.
A Tibetan woman in the Sichuan Province, China.
A mother and her son pose in Australia.
Noroc hopes to publish an Atlas of Beauty book after another year of traveling. This woman was photographed in Rio de Janeiro.
“There is much more diversity in the world, waiting for me, and I love to discover it. It’s an infinite treasure,” she says. Below, a woman in Myanmar.
Noroc also traveled around her home country of Romania. Here, a ceramic art student in a workshop in Cluj, Romania.
Noroc plans to continue to travel the world with just her backpack and camera. Her next stop? Greece.
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