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This Is What Beauty Looks Like Around the World

Photographer Mihaela Noroc's "The Atlas of Beauty" is the best portrait of diversity we've ever seen
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Pay close enough attention, and you'll find that everyone on the planet can be divided into the following two categories: Those that be, and those that observe.

Most of us fall into the former category. We swim in the deep end of our lives, rarely taking a moment to catch an aerial view not only of our own lives, but also of those we'd otherwise never get the chance to see.

Mihaela Noroc is an observer. She's a photographer, so in a way she has to be. But this visionary's ability to see into the heart of people goes far deeper than her lens. For 15 months, from summer 2013 until late last year, 30-year-old Noroc traveled by land and sea across 30-some countries, photographing women all over the world as a part of a project called "The Atlas of Beauty."

Part one of Noroc's project is now finished. Her stunning portraits capture young women spanning oceans, cultures and seemingly eras. From the streets of Harlem to mosques in Iran, temples in Tibet, rural villages in her home country of Romania and beyond, Noroc's Atlas is onto something big.

"The idea [for the project] came to me in Ethiopia on a trip with my husband," Noroc says. "The women there were a mix of all types, some Arab faces, some African faces, but what struck me was that the women retained their traditional fashions and traditional ways — they did not participate in the modern world."

Noroc says that beauty and diversity are synonymous. She aims to document the distinct faces of beauty on Earth — every age, ethnicity and ethos — so that as the world becomes increasingly homogenized, there will be a record of this colorful human map.

Scroll forward to step behind Noroc's lens. Take a moment to live as the observer. What you'll find is nothing short of extraordinary.

Image via Mihaela Noroc

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Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador
"A few months ago I entered the Amazonian jungle of Ecuador. I found this very expressive young woman in a Quechua tribe. She was wearing her wedding dress (yes, this was her wedding outfit), which she used when she was fifteen years old (yes, it is common for people from this tribe to get married at that age). She let me take some photos of her in her courtyard. Actually, in Amazonia, the entire jungle can be your courtyard." - Mihaela Noroc

Image via Mihaela Noroc

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Riga, Latvia
"In the first part of my journey [for The Atlas of Beauty] I went from Romania to Japan only by land and sea. This way I was able to observe, step-by-step, country-by-country, the changes of the female physiognomies around me. This is Agate, a young Latvian from Riga."

Image via Mihaela Noroc

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Medellin, Colombia
"I met Estefania by chance on the streets of Medellin, Colombia, one of the most diverse cities in the world."

Image via Mihaela Noroc

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Tibetan Plateau, China
"[This woman] was walking around a temple monastery with her mother. It's a thing the Tibetans do. They walk around the temple before they enter. I think she was quite surprised when I told her she was beautiful, and I think that surprise is what shows in her face. You know what I have learned? People don't think they are beautiful. But they are. You wear your story on your face, and that is part of who we are. I am looking for the stories behind that beauty, and the lives my subjects have lived."

Image via Mihaela Noroc

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