KATHMANDU, NEPAL. Sona is celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, and among the most spectacular gatherings I witnessed in my travels. A time to forgive and to be forgiven, Holi marks the coming of spring, when good triumphs over evil.

“Atlas of Beauty” Photographer Travels the World to Capture the Beauty of 500 Women Around the World

Numerous jobs aim to explore concepts of beauty across the planet, but perhaps none so dedicated and comprehensive as The Atlas of Beauty. After nearly four decades of traveling continuously around the world, photographer Mihaela Noroc's portraits of girls around the world are being issued in a new 352-page publication.

The book, which was published on September 26, 2017, includes 500 pictures from more than 50 countries, with many previously unseen pictures. It's the fruit of many years of effort, together with Noroc traveling the globe to listen to women's tales, accompanied just by her backpack and camera.

Her stunning images catch girls of all ages and sizes, demonstrating that beauty is more than what we see in glossy magazines.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA. A while ago, Jade took out a loan, bought a professional camera, and started to learn photography. She dreams of traveling and taking photos all over the world. I had the same dream—and it came true.

And while Noroc acknowledges that girls are under immense pressure to conform to beauty criteria, she hopes her novel could give them another perspective on what it means to be amazing.

"While traveling, I discovered that there's a lot of pressure on girls to look and behave in a specific way. In certain environments, it's the pressure to look attractive. In others, on the contrary, it's the pressure to look modest. But each woman should be free to research her own attractiveness without feeling any pressure from marketing campaigns, tendencies, or social norms."

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND. : I met Thorunn in her hometown on a freezing day. But her warm personality made me forget the cold. A popular singer in Iceland, she was also a new mom to a baby girl, whom she wants to grow up happy and confident. So Thorunn started an online community called “Good Sister,” which drew a third of the women in her country to join in support of one another by sharing their stories and giving encouragement.

"Real beauty comes from inside, encouraging peace and humanity, therefore if our outsides are authentic and natural, our interiors will be more visible. We will need to learn to be ourselves, but to do that we also have to learn to let others be themselves."

During her journeys, Noroc has worked her way through typically touristed countries but has also ventured to many that few outsiders see--like North Korea and Iran. Utilizing her camera to violate the isolation these states typically reside in--whether because of politics or war--she completes a larger picture of humankind around the world.

MILAN, ITALY. Caterina began dancing when she was three years old. Her mother, Barbara, was supportive, but knew that there were few opportunities to study ballet in their small town so, although her husband and son stayed behind, she moved with Caterina to Milan, where her daughter could fulfill her dream and attend one of the most esteemed schools in the world. Art requires huge sacrifices, but imagine how Barbara feels today seeing Caterina dancing on the celebrated stage of La Scala.

At times, these isolated areas even defy expectations. The women that there loved to be photographed, with Noroc stating that it had been one of the few nations outside the Western world in which she had seldom been refused a photograph.

"I hope this novel will get into many houses across the world, convincing more people that diversity is a treasure rather than a cause for battles and hate. We're very different, but at the same time we're all part of the exact same family."

The Atlas of Beauty is now accessible for order on Amazon. Visit Noroc's site for a listing of global retailers.

RAMALLAH, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES. Amal—her name means “hope” in Arabic—is Palestinian, but has lived in Saudi Arabia from age five, when her family moved there. “One year ago, I came back to Palestine for my studies. I really feel at home here. I feel I can become the woman I want to be.”
ISTANBUL, TURKEY. During my travels, I’ve met so many stunning women who told me they don’t feel beautiful at all. Influenced by the way the media depicts beauty, many people feel pressured to follow a certain standard of beauty. But that’s not the case with Pinar.
She is Turkish Cypriot and has long dreamed of becoming a theatre actress. So, she moved from Cyprus to Turkey, worked hard and fulfilled her dream. While she loves playing different roles on stage, in real life, she adores being herself, natural and free. In the end, beauty is about being yourself, something people like Pinar prove to be true.

HAVANA, CUBA. An actress? A model? No, she wishes only to finish her studies and become a nurse.
WEST JERUSALEM, ISRAEL. When I saw her walking on the street, I briefly thought that we had gone back in time. Rikki loves to wear vintage clothes and is very creative. She was born in Russia to a Jewish family and decided to move to Jerusalem.
DELPHI, GREECE. On a normal day, Eleni works in her family’s restaurant. But once a year, she dresses like this for Easter. It’s fascinating to see that, despite the fact that Greece is a modern country, it preserves many of its ancient traditions.
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA. Rarely have I seen such a concentration of uniforms; they are everywhere in this society. This woman was a guide at a military museum.
OMO VALLEY, ETHIOPIA. With the high temperatures here, nudity is not unusual. Her tribe is called the Daasanach and they have lived in isolation for generations.
NEW YORK, USA. Abby and Angela are sisters with an Ethiopian mother and a Nigerian father. Both parents worked for the United Nations so the sisters grew up in six different countries, on three different continents. This gave them a broad perspective and allowed them to see where need was the greatest. After graduation, they both plan to move to Africa and put their knowledge in the service of that amazing continent.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO. Captain Berenice Torres is a helicopter pilot for the Mexican Federal Police. This brave woman, who is also a mother, is part of a special forces unit to fight drug cartels, or to rescue people from natural disasters.
CHICHICASTENANGO, GUATEMALA. Maria is a vegetable vendor in the market of her small town. She became shy as soon as she saw the camera.
PARIS, FRANCE. I met Imane at an art exhibition at the Pompidou Centre, her favorite place to dream, before she had to leave for a job interview. She is studying art at a university and also works in three restaurants and does some babysitting to support herself. But she wants to someday have an art gallery, one that will bring together artists from different cultures. She has African and European roots and loves the diversity of the world.
NAMPAN, MYANMAR. For many people around the world, this is what shopping looks like. They don’t have their own cars, or big homes, or bank accounts. But most of them are great examples of dignity, strength, generosity, and honesty. If more of those who have fortunes and power would learn from these wonderful people, we would live in a much better world.