A face in the crowd

A face in the crowd
Bruno Mars famously sang ‘Just The Way You Are’, which spoke about how he believes his girl is beautiful but she doesn’t believe that. So when the lyrics sang ‘When I compliment her she won’t believe me, and it’s so sad to think that she don’t see what I see’, it gave many a chance to open their eyes and see the beauty in them. All they had to do was believe.

Giving life to this statement is Noroc Mihaela, a 30-year-old travel photographer from Romania, who gave up her fancy job to capture beauty in women. She started a project — The Atlas of Beauty — where she has travelled to more than 45 countries to celebrate women. It’s also become one of the most popular photographic projects in the world.

She says, “Almost three years ago, I left home with my backpack and camera to go around the world. I photographed women in their natural environment. My project was about our planet’s diversity shown through portraits of women.”

Before she made this bold decision, she worked in a TV production company. When asked what made her leave her life and pursue this, she says, “It was a well paid job but it was really exhausting and I didn’t really like it. So I decided to quit and invest all my savings in a journey around the world. Today, I work even more than I used to, but I do what I love.”

Her aim is to take a step forward and help people realise that beauty can teach one to be more tolerant.

She explains, “We should learn to be ourselves, and let other people be themselves. For me, beauty is diversity and it can teach us to be tolerant. Every day, we hear stories about people fighting because they are a different religion, culture or race. This is why I think we need to show that diversity is something beautiful and not let it become a reason for conflict.”

During her travels, she made a pit stop to India for two months and visited Varanasi, Delhi, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Amritsar, Mumbai, Nashik and Goa. She met a lot of women here who shared their problems and dreams. She also worked with Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor for this project. “Sonam is an extraordinary person, a symbol of beauty and success,  and my wish was to let Indian women know that all of them are stars for me. I really want to let people in India know how special the women here are and that they deserve admiration, protection and respect, whether they are mothers, sisters or daughters. This photo series is a homage to all of them,” she says. Most of the time, she gets about 30 seconds to take the photograph. Other times, she spends an hour listening to a woman’s story and meets her again if she agrees.

When in India, Noroc mostly travelled by train which she says was a great way to meet people. She didn’t find language to be a problem as most of the women she photographed spoke English, and if not, she found someone to translate for her.

And how has this journey changed her life? “It’s not easy to make this project work. Sometimes, you have exhausting days or dangerous moments. Other times, you get a virus or become homesick. In the last three years, the whole world has become my home. I followed my dream and learned to make the best of it everyday,” she says.

She plans spend more time in the South and explore the beauty here, especially in Bengaluru. “From the number of invites I’ve received from Bengalureans, it seems like a great place and I look forward to coming down next time and spending some time with the locals,”
she adds.

In 2017, Noroc is looking forward to publishing her first edition of ‘The Atlas of Beauty’, a book about our diverse planet. She hopes to be an encouragement to people to remain authentic.

She says, “After almost three years of travelling, I can say that beauty is everywhere and it’s not a matter of cosmetics, money, race or social status, but more about being yourself. I think everybody has to cultivate their own beauty rather than copying something that doesn’t suit them. In the end, the original is better than a copy.”

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