These photographs are part of a project by 30-year-old Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc, who has so far covered 37 countries as part of her project, titled The Atlas of Beauty.
Noroc, from Bucharest, most recently visited North Korea in an effort to capture the beauty of the women native to a nation largely still shrouded in secrecy.
On her Tumblr blog, she says “Beauty means diversity and I travel the world to discover it. From Western Europe to African Tribes, and from Rio de Janeiro to China, I try to capture in my photos, natural and diverse faces.”
She says staying true to one’s culture and origins is the meaning of true beauty, an opinion well illustrated in the photo series so far.
“Maybe in 50 years all women from all around the world will dress and act the same. I hope my project will remain a witness of my era’s cultures and traditions,” says Noroc.
Of her journey to North Korea, where she photographed women soldiers, performers and waitresses, she told Buzzfeed News: “North Korean women are not familiar with global trends, but this doesn’t mean they are not preoccupied with their look. They have a passion for high heels and usually wear classic outfits, always accompanied by a pin on the chest, representing the country’s leaders.”
Unlike their South Korean neighbours, who are currently leading the way in the beauty industry, with it last week revealed that the Estee Lauder Companies had made a significant investment in the market, women in North Korea can find beauty products difficult to come by.
Earlier this year it was reported that wealthy North Korean women have been able to purchase skincare products from South Korea through a local trading firm, and that cosmetic surgery is on the rise under leader Kim Jong-un, who wishes to be seen as more progressive than his predecessor.
Meanwhile a poster on NKNews.com wrote that girls in the country are forbidden from wearing make-up until graduation from high school. “Most North Koreans traditionally used skin toner and lotion only,” wrote Je Son Lee, who now lives in South Korea. “From 2000 North Korea began to produce its own cosmetics line called ‘You and I’ in its Hamhung factory. This cosmetics line was created to be supplied to high-ranking government officials, as well as to be exported.
“They added a line of nutrition cream to skin toner and lotion - at a time when you could buy other cosmetics for $5-10, these cost $250-300.”
All photographs copyright Mihaela Noroc, The Atlas of Beauty. Follow the project on Facebook here.