For centuries, beauty standards have been undeniably Eurocentric. Such narrow criteria are difficult for anyone to achieve, but can be particularly alienating to women of color. One photographer, however, has decided to expand our understanding of beauty and prove that, in fact, it can be found anywhere and everywhere.
Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc quit her previous job and invested her savings in a portrait project she calls "The Atlas of Beauty." Now, Noroc has photographed women from 37 countries who demonstrate that, as she wrote about the project on Bored Panda, "beauty is everywhere, and it's not a matter of cosmetics or sizes but more about being yourself." The project is "A big bet," she told Mic. "But I hope I will win it."
Noroc has no formal criteria for selecting her subjects. "I just searched for natural and sincere faces that can tell a story about their cultural background," she told Mic. "In the end, beauty is in the eye of the beholder." She added that, in her opinion, "Beauty is diversity."
Of course, Noroc's project is not without flaws. Her subjects, though racially and geographically diverse, still arguably appear to align with a stereotypically Western standard of beauty. Furthermore, it's important to emphasize that beauty should not be a determining factor of women's worth in the first place.
We must continue to advocate for a society in which women's intelligence, humor and capacity for empathy are held in higher regard than their appearance. But within the context of a society that has historically valued women based on a rigid understanding of beauty, any step towards widening such subjective ideals should be applauded.
We should celebrate efforts to expand our understanding of beauty beyond the confines of the imperialistic standard that has been upheld for centuries. Appreciating diverse representations of beauty may be a small step towards a more equal world in which beauty no longer carries such oppressive weight — but it's an important step nonetheless.
Check out more of the lovely photos below.
Nasir al-Mulk, Iran
New York, NY
El Paico, Chile
Tibetan Plateau, China
San Francisco, CA
Colca Valley, Peru
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
h/t Bored Panda