“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” ~Margaret Wolfe Hungerford
In the mainstream media, there is a huge focus on beauty. Between the magazines, commercials, and fashion shows, we are being constantly pumped with ideas of what shape, size, color, and dress is the most beautiful. It seems that these unattainable beauty goals are the only way to truly be seen as beautiful.
But Romanian photographer, Mihaela Noroc, knew better.
She decided to go out into the world and photograph women from 37 different countries, to show just how diverse the idea of beauty can be.
Aliisa is originally from Lapland, Finland. This is the territory of the Swami people, and it covers Finland, Norway, and Sweden. It is one of the coldest place on Earth, and most of the people live by herding caribou and riding sleds pulled by huskies. Aliisa definitely has the features of a typical Finnish person, as shown by her blonde hair, blue eyes, and very light complexion. In an area that doesn’t get sun for half a year, it makes sense that she would look this way.
The country of Australia has a very wide range of people living there. From the. lightest of Europeans who came over when the country became a commonwealth of England, to the native Aboriginals who had been there years before. This beautiful girl is part of the former group, her light skin hair and eyes tells that she is from Europe, and most likely her family came over a generation or three ago.
Amazon Jungle, Ecuador
This is a picture of beauty that really stands out from others. She is an expressive figure who lives in the Amazon in Ecuador from the Kichwa tribe, an indigenous group of people that’s even fewer than the Incas of Peru and among the many that live in the forest. Her tribal history is over her body; the skirt that was part of her wedding and the makeup that is representative of her heritage that is far, far away from the modern world. This is as natural as one could get.
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
This woman’s skin has been kissed by the Brazilian sun, and it seems to have blessed her with beauty as well. She definitely has African roots, as you can tell by the color of her skin and the texture of her hair. She is probably mixed with Brazilian somewhere along the way, since she has slightly different facial features than that of a fully African woman.
In Greece, this young woman is regarded as a great beauty. Her thick, long brown hair offers contrast to her lighter skin. Unlike the what fashion magazines would have you believe, she is beautiful without any makeup or fake hair color. Her piercing blue eyes stand out marvelously next to her dull, pink blouse. Next we’ll move East to see what India sees as beautiful…
She is a natural beauty, with no makeup or products needed. This girl’s long brown hair and big round eyes compliment her very luscious lips. She wears a plain shirt which allows for her natural features to stand out.
This beautiful blonde, blue-eyed woman is from the city of Riga in the country of Latvia. It is often difficult to find a woman with hair that is this light without any bleaching or highlighting, but not in Latvia. This Eastern European country is full of light skinned people with blonde hair and blue eyes. This girl is especially beatuful, and knows that she does not need makeup or hair color. Simple is beautiful.
This stunning girl is, pretty obviously, from Iceland. She definitely knows how to dress for the harsh, arctic weather, as temperatures drop to record lows there. She is also very lightly colored, with blonde hair and blue eyes, because the country is in darkness for a lot of the year, so there is no need for a lot of melanin in the skin.
This Indian woman is wading in the waters of the Ganges River. It is a holy place of worship for the Hindu religion. In her hands, she holds a humble offering to the gods of her faith. Draped around her is a soft, pink veil called a Dupatta. The lighting perfectly reflects her pure, brown skin and dark eyes. Again, you won’t find any makeup or products here. Rather, her natural beauty becomes apparent when notice her grace and subtlety as she gently holds her offering.
This is in Transylvania, a place where the general public associate with vampires and witches. Does this woman – who can be mistaken from the Scandinavian lands – because of her blonde looks – represent that common misinterpretation? Eastern Europe is filled with many looks; this woman has some strength on her that’s visible. She is serious and willing to prove it. Her hair is like a Viking – she might as well be from Sweden and do the damage.
In Ethiopia, she is a hotel maid. Her hair is braided into cornrows, and she has visible, tribal-like tattoos on her neck. Her round face is one of perfect symmetry with a round-tipped nose right in the middle. She has dark, piercing eyes, and her perfectly white teeth peek out through her full, pink lips. In Africa, the standard of beauty is quite different than what one would typically see in the Western world. This dark-skinned beauty is a perfect example of why we just cannot define beauty with one certain look.
In a fashion-forward country such as Italy, it might seem difficult to find a natural beauty, untainted by the mainstream media. This woman shows us that beauty is not about a number on a scale. Her full figure is complimented by the striking red of her blouse, her lips, and the flower in her hair.
Botosani area, Romania
This Romanian woman wears a scarf on her head, representing the rich Eastern European culture which has been a part of that region for hundreds of years. Peeking through the scarf, we can see her brown hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. Her soft smile raises her rosey cheeks and accentuates her big, brown eyes. She has a natural beauty that cannot be achieved through anything other than genetics. Do you think she has been tainted by the fashion models who don’t look like she does?
From Cali, a city known infamously for its drug cartel, there’s a beautiful girl here who stands away from the violence and history. This woman has Lebanese in her, adding an interesting mix with her beauty. The eyes and freckles can get people in and wonder at what this person is thinking of in her smile and the nose ring that sticks out even more.
This young Chinese girl beautifies simple and simplifies beauty. She has her hair tied up in two messy knots, with a few strands still shaping the sides of her face. The feature that stands out in her is her big, round eyes. They are contested only by her bright red lip, which are pursed into a tight, subtle smile. She wears a white, lacy blouse that gives perfect contrast to her jet-black hair. This far-East beauty is quite a sight, without any product trying to manipulate her appearance.
Maori, New Zealand
She is also from a tribe – the Maoris of New Zealand, although they are integrated with the modern population while maintaining their own culture, language, and history. Background aside, this girl is pretty and the first thing that stands out are her eyes. They are direct, like the barrel of a gun, at the lens.What she wears, what she stands next to, and why is she looking so serious is questioning enough to ask more about her.
Now, we are in Sweden, where she clearly does not have the Nordic as the other woman showed, once again breaking a profiling look about people. In Stockholm, the capital, the woman rides her bikes and dresses a bit elegantly with her tan robe, beige gloves, and large blue-based scarf. A sense of confidence fills over her from where she is going from here.
Back in Turkey, this woman has incredible hair that accompanies how she dresses with her fat necklace and small nose ring (just visible). Her expression is even more noticeable as it is filled with ferocity, as if she was a character from Game of Thrones as someone who seeks vengeance for something. The eyes are dark, her eyebrows are dark, and the pupils in the center – dark. No light shines in her eyes.
In Nepal, a country with temples that tower the streets and mountains that tower above all on the ground, this woman sits with a calming gaze from the distance to us. Her dress is, as some others, expressive of where she is from. No footwear is worn, even on the stone floor of this special setting she is in. She is comfortable and pretty from where she is at and doesn’t need to add to her life.
She is from Tajikistan, a country 1 in 100 would probably correctly say where is located, but it doesn’t matter. Wherever the country is, however, isolated it is, there is always a beautiful woman that comes out. Here, this is her wedding dress – eye-popping with color and designs that can be dissected upon. With her long, straight, dark hair and clear skin, the woman is an attraction.
Baltic Sea, Finland
She embodies what you would imagine a Swedish beauty would look like. Light blond hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. She gracefully stands against the wind coming from the water as she rides down the Baltic Sea. She is used to chillingly cold conditions, and so is able to continue posing graceful, despite the freezing temperature.
In China, a pregnant woman is dressed comfortably and casually. She is proud to have her bundle of joy in her stomach. She may not been recognized if it weren’t for being pregnant, but now she is and there’s a hint of excitement because – and this is true – the woman was heading to the hospital to prepare to give birth. Under those circumstances, where everyone panics and scrambles for that hour of birth, this woman is calm.
From Chechnya, this woman represents a mixture of modernity and traditions. Se has a garb on to express her culture. She oozes confidence, beauty, and a strong sense what see must do. In a conjunction with Russia, nothing is easy.
Omo Valley, Ethiopia
She comes from Ethiopia and is an Arbore, one of the many tribes known in the continent that has existed for thousands of years. Again, past traditions showing it off today, preserved and sacred.The veil and necklace cover her head and breasts; it is a shield from the sun. However, in many tribes, unmarried women will walk exposing their breasts. Nudity is a subject that some will be self-conscious on, but there is no shame of it here in a tribe.
Kaesong, North Korea
In Korea, this woman has on one of the country’s notable traditional attire work for a celebratory event. There is much to say about the beauty of what she is wearing, where she is standing under, and of the woman herself. Korea and Japan have such a notability with how they dress and where they go for these events, which can also be called beautiful. It’s big, thick piece of cloth to wear over, but it is a custom made look with all of the designs on the pink and green.
This young woman has the really interesting combination. She is Indian and Egyptian, but she was born and raised in Tokyo.Nobody could’ve known based on where she is standing. However, it is an example that beauty from any source can stand in another site and the beauty remains.It captures the intensity in her gaze, from her dark hair, and from the blue jacket she wears. The look is very glaring to the viewer.
The Peruvian people are direct descendants of the Incas. This woman’s indigenous background gives her a sort of ancient beauty-look. Peru has a rich, mixed heritage of Inca, Spanish, African, and even Asian ethnicities, so there are so many variations of beautiful. Her brown skin allows for her red lips to almost pop, without even a drop of lipstick. Her hair is shiny and long, and it compliments her deep, dark eyes. Her white, simple clothing contrasts her colorful cloth bracelet she has wrapped around her arm.
In a Buddhist temple in Myanmar, this woman wears a glowing dress around a glowing backdrop, beauty in beauty. It is an exceptionally peaceful style where the woman holds her weight. Again, her hair is combed in a specific way, and her eyes look at us softly. The woman blends in on all aspects.
In Mongolia, this woman has eyes of mild sadness and rosy cheeks in the collection of emotion she may have gone through recently. It is a match with her dark hair and pale skin; her dress is a piece of the traditional Mongolian formal attire. A funeral, perhaps? She may have gone through the process of seeing the life end for someone who is young. The beauty inside her remains and will not wash away with the tears falling.
She wears a simple wrapped tube top with a beautiful pattern, it is most likely homemade. She stares mysteriously from behind a few hanging pots, as if to say that she is curious about the picture but also very shy.
Colca Valley, Peru
This Peruvian woman is embodying the colorfulness that is so prominent in her country. You can see that her hat and vest are colorfully patterned and are definitely handmade. Even her hair is woven with beautiful blue ribbons and tassels, that go along with her baby blue flower patterned blouse.
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
This beautiful mocha skinned Chilean woman is absolutely gorgeous. Her tight, thick, curly hair sits playfully on the top of her head, and matches her skin color. Her deep brown eyes are piercing.
This woman works in the local market in a poorer area of Myanmar. She works hard, but she is still smiling a genuinely happy smile. She is wearing local tribal face paint, with a bindi crystal in the middle of her head, representing the fact that she is married.
Iraqi In Greece
This woman is currently being photographed in Greece, but she is most definitely not Greek at all. She is a refugee from a small village in Iran that has been taken over by ISIS. She and her children are currently seeking refuge in the in Idomeni Refugee Camp in Greece.
This woman is studying to become an elementary school in Turkey. She
has flowing long brown hair prominent facial features common in the Middle Eastern area. She is considered a rare beauty in her city.
New York, USA
This Leeda. She is studying to become a musician in New York City. She is of African roots, although born in the United States. Her face is determined, as she is trying to make it as a music artist in the Big Apple.
Skopje, Republic of Macedonia
When she was a young girl, she was in a terrible car accident and lost her ability to walk. The accident was because of a drunk driver. The driver was never convicted. 15 years after the accident, she is in school studying law to make sure that justice is always be attained.
This woman is decked out, from head to toe, in the most stunning clothing and accessories. Because of the amount of jewelry she is wearing, she might be a bride or a newly wed. You can also see that she has the traditional henna painted on her hands and up her arms. She is riding in a carriage, most likely to or from her wedding. She looks happy and yet not overly ecstatic to be photographed.
This young woman was photographed in UlaanBatar, Mongolia, next to a large building, most likely a government building. UlaanBatar is actually the capital of Mongolia, which sits along Tuul River valley. Her city brings with it a lot of history, as it was originally a nomadic Buddhist area, but was take over by the Soviet Union in the 20th century. You can see old Soviet buildings placed strangely among surviving Buddhist templates.
This woman’s photograph was taken in the modern Indian city of Mumbai. Mumbai is Indian’s largest, most populated city. It is also a gigantic financial hub, so there is a lot of money to be found there. This girl looks to be completely modern, wearing a simple, western-type shirt, with her hair in a relaxed bun.Most likely, she has been exposed to the modern world via technology, unlike many of her fellow countrymen in other areas.
Harlem, New York
This beautiful girl is sitting outside of an outdoor basketball court in Harlem, New York. Harlem is a city full of rich history. In the 1920’s, Harlem was a roaring city full of progress and beauty, inhabited almost entirely by African-Americans. Today, unfortunately, Harlem is becoming more and more gentrified by younger generations wanting to live in such a historic place. The only problem is, they don’t know how much damage they are doing to the community.
Age is nothing but a number. Tina Turner and Sophia Loren carry on a beauty of power as they continue to get older, such as this woman in her 80s in Switzerland. She is one who has no qualms of what she has done to get to this point and looks great in the process. Her colorful, creative scarf is a symbol of that. The hair is also noticeable, having greyed up and shortened like a man. It doesn’t take away anything, as he comfortable smile indicates. So, what have we seen in these photos? We’ve seen beauty stand out everywhere in the world on six different continents. Dominant and radiant, these women have qualities of beauty in their faces, their hair, and on their clothing. Beauty comes in all forms. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, for sure.
Sichuan Province, China
Although she might not look like what you think of as the traditional sense of Chinese, this woman is most definitely a citizen of China. She comes from the Sichuan Province, an area in the middle of the country. It is rural there, and much of it is untouched by modern Westernization. She wears a red piece of material woven beautifully into her hair, along with very ostentatiously pretty earrings that spill down onto her shoulders.
In South America, the standard of beauty strays pretty far the the skinny, blonde, blue-eyed model. Instead, we see a girl with full lips and even fuller curly, dark hair. Her big, green-brown eyes contrast beautifully against the black background. This Colombian girl represents the dark complexioned beauties that are so sought after in her region.
San Francisco, USA
Red-haired and freckle faced, this American beauty is of Irish descent. She is a model from San Francisco who has her own standard of beauty. She lets her features take precedence and define her beauty.
This is in Havana, Cuba. We know about the political issue, but this has maintained a rich culture of music and glee in their lives – poor or not. This woman is very captivating thanks to her dress and the skirt flowing openly. Skin, eyes, and stance are part of the position as well in the beauty. It’s a position that only gives a hint of her backdrop and not the real story, but she has pride within herself to pose freely.
Australia is made up of many different shapes, sizes, and colors of women. This girl seems to have almost asian like features, with really full lips and big dark eyes.
Coventry, United Kingdom
There is a really large Indian population living all over the UK, mostly in England. This woman is of Indian descent, and is absolutely stunning.
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is known for its beautiful, fashion forward people. This pretty Chinese girl knows exactly how to dress and how to pose for a picture.
This Indian girl deaf and attends a school in one of India’s major slums where poverty arises and charity is necessary. Even with the double whammy of being deaf and in a hell, she is not sad, but positive. She is smiling for us, giving a kind of cheer regardless of her circumstances. She is proud to be in that school uniform because it could honestly be worse. She is happy to stand where she is.
Duque de Caxias, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It’s no secret that Brazil has some of the most gorgeous women in the world. This girl has stunning Latina features like deep brown eyes, dark hair, and full lips.
This Japanese woman has a cute pixie cut and dark eyeliner. She has a modern look about her.
Los Angeles, California, United States
The Hunger Games Celebrity, Amanda Steinberg, has a unique type of beauty. She wears her hair naturally, and is sporting a snakelike chocker necklace. An example of American beauty.
She is from Lisbon in Portugal, but her features hint at something else. While she is Portuguese, the girl has Angolan (African) origins. The people of Portugal are often mixed with African genes, so they are a stunning people.
Busan, South Korea
This girl is dainty and graceful, representing the beauty of South Korea. The women here are typically smaller and paler, and have a unique sense of style.
In the modern city of Bucharest, you’ll find that the fashion industry has a prominent influence. However, this woman has a soft and natural appearance. She has paired a deep blue shirt to perfectly match her eyes, which are a similar color. She has a subtle smile that accentuates her full, pink lips. Her long brown hair dusts her shoulders and drapes gently down her chest; a natural beauty.
In Turkey, a young woman has long, dark hair that differs with her light skin, and her eyes gaze at us in a subtle manner. In the backdrop of a land that combines modernity with authority, she is comfortable in her skin. This is mentioned because Turkey is a Muslim-majority nation secular towards women, so it allows this young woman here to dress comfortably in a natural fashion. Could one even tell where she was from if not informing us beforehand?
Who Stands Behind The Project?
So, with people, what defines beauty today? Hair, skin, facial expression, eyes – what are the exact qualities of someone to be considered beautiful? It was a question photographer Mihaela Norco went to find around the round in her photographic essay, The Atlas of Beauty. It features picture portraits of women from 37 different countries as an analysis of what beauty may be about. Here is what she captured.