Outsiders don’t often get to see behind the closed doors of North Korea—and when we do, what we usually see of its tightly-controlled society is usually strict conformity or bleakness. Photographer Mihaela Noroc offers a rare perspective with images from her series The Atlas of Beauty, which celebrates the diversity of beauty through portraits of ordinary women around the world.
The Romanian photographer has visited over 60 countries, and her most recent trip brought her to North Korea. She writes in a statement:
“Women of North Korea are not familiar with global trends but this doesn’t mean that they are not preoccupied by their look. They are, definitely! They have a passion for high heels and usually wear classic outfits, always accompanied by a pin, on the chest, representing one of the country’s leaders.”
As a tourist, Noroc was required to travel with a local guide, she tells Quartz in an email. The photographer had two female attendants from a tourism agency who also served as translators, and she was required to stick to an itinerary with specific pre-approved locations. Yet, Noroc writes, “I was honest about my purpose from the beginning and maybe that’s why I was able to walk a lot in the streets and meet many ordinary people.” She adds that her photos were not reviewed by any North Korean officials.
See a selection of photos from her journey, with captions written by Noroc.