by Rachel Warden
Without diversity, there is no beauty in humanity. Differences in skin color, body shape, and personality are what distinguishes an individual and sets us apart from other species; simply put, it is what makes us human. However, through popular media, images of what the “ideal woman should look like” have been overwhelmingly invasive in our day to day lives. Images of the “perfect body” are advertised in magazines, on television, and online; cosmetic surgery in the United States has become a norm amongst middle and upper class women. In 2013, more than $12 billion was spent on plastic surgery to attain the “ideal” look. In the United States, this look is similar to that of Victoria’s Secret Angels: tall, slim, large busted, with “angelic” faces. In a cut-throat culture of painstakingly high beauty standards, many women don’t feel as if they can meet up to the expectations thrust upon them by society.
An up-and-coming Romanian photographer, Mihaela Norac, seeks to tear down this one-dimensional idea of beauty. Her project The Atlas of Beauty captures the aspect of multicultural beauty, through photographs of women around the world. She traveled to 37 different countries over the course of 15 months to capture women of different shapes, sizes, colors, and cultures. To Norac, beauty means something special. It is something that goes deeper, beneath the skin. “Beauty means to keep alive your origins and your culture. To be natural, sincere, authentic, particular…”
Although Norac has received a lot of positive feedback from social media, she has also received some criticism. There have been a few remarks about the types of women photographed in this project. For instance, some women have pointed out that those who were photographed are all young. Norac responds on a Facebook status, “Until now 99% of the project was made with my own small savings and I didn’t have enough time and funds to study all ages properly. So I chose one age: my own age. In the near future I hope I will raise decent funds to capture more diversity, in more countries because beauty is everywhere and has no age limit.”
Mihaela Norac continues to travel the world to capture cultural diversity and authentic beauty. Her project has received some press recently, but The Atlas of Beauty still has much more ground to cover. Through these beautiful, thought-evoking photographs, women around the world can see someone to whom they can relate. From all different parts of the world, from all different walks of life, we may all look different, but being different is what makes us human- it is what makes us beautiful.
You can follow Mihaela Norac’s journey on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, or her blog.
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