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  • Valentina Vidaček

The Atlas of Beauty

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

As an anthropologist and a linguist, I have always been fascinated by abstract nouns. Even though they are something that exists beyond our minds, they leave a strong and particular mark on our society. The social concept on which they rely deeply infiltrates into the pores of what it means to be human. One of these concepts is the concept of beauty, and the reason why we have decided to research this topic is the work of Mihaela Noroc.

Mihaela Noroc holding her book (the picture is downloaded from The Grey Alley)

Mihaela Noroc has left a secure job in order to venture into the adventure of her lifetime. Having nothing else but a camera, she decided to research the beauty of women. She summarized her research in her book The Atlas of Beauty. The book is a combination of pictures and a few sentences. Noroc photographed women in their natural surroundings. The objects of the photographs are not hired models who fit into certain given molds, but women she met while traveling. These are women with a layered identity caught in the context of the day for which they prepared their 'costumes'. William Shakespeare once said how the whole world is a stage and rarely is a quote as such so anthropologically layered and correct. Each woman in those photographs prepared her 'costume' in the morning for the upcoming day by choosing clothes, jewelry, and make-up. The absence of any of those elements presents a new kind of information in itself.

Picture from Noroc’s book Atlas of Beauty

We can point out a few examples. A woman, who took part in some of the festivals which were held in her immediate proximity, would choose a socially prescribed costume that allowed her to assimilate into the social event. She would carefully choose her jewelry and apply layers of make-up, all in accordance with her clothes, which she has prepared in advance in her mind a few days earlier.

Picture from Noroc’s book Atlas of Beauty

On the other hand, some women have prepared a costume that fits a certain sport activity in which they were actively participating. These women did not put on make-up but rather a sports uniform and comfortable footwear.

Noroc met women in different life situations: on their way to work, on the street, or a walk. So, we can conclude, that beauty of Noroc’s book is embodied in the diversity of women which can be seen in their age, nationality, and character traits. Next to each photograph stand a few words. Noroc delineates from details and on the contrary, she manages to emphasize the role of the reader through using simple sentences. The sentences which Noroc uses are mainly concerned with some event that had a strong impact on the woman in the photograph, or it simply describes the context in which she met her. Noroc understands the power of language which can with only one-word cause a flood of images and emotions in our minds. Therefore, when she writes about a woman who survived a battle with a tough illness or some kind of accident, it encourages the reader to look at the woman in the photograph and start imagining the battle. To start noticing the wrinkles on her face, as well as courage and experience. Based on their own experience, the readers are filling in the blanks.

Picture from Noroc’s book Atlas of Beauty

Mihaela Noroc managed to show how beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and she challenges each of her readers to accept that responsibility. Just like Alain de Botton is not sure whether he likes Chloe because she is beautiful, or is she beautiful because he loves her, we will share this beautiful doubt with Botton by expanding our knowledge about people. Do we love people because they are beautiful or are they beautiful because we know them so well?

Mihaela Noroc’s book The Atlas of Beauty is an unavoidable book for all of those who want to meet the complex concept of everyday life’s beauty.

  1. Noroc, M. (2018). The Atlas of Beauty. Penguin Books.



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