Review: The Atlas of Beauty by Mihaela Noroc

This collection seemed like the perfect blend between Strong Is the New Pretty by Kate T. Parker and Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York. So the wait to get approved for this ARC was nearly excruciating with me checking my emails every day for a week. But I’m glad to say that it lived up to the hype I created in my mind.

Since 2013 photographer Mihaela Noroc has traveled the world with her backpack and camera taking photos of everyday women to showcase the diversity of beauty all around us. The Atlas of Beauty is a collection of her photographs celebrating women from all corners of the world, revealing that beauty is everywhere, and that it comes in many different sizes and colors. Noroc’s colorful and moving portraits feature women in their local communities, ranging from the Amazon rainforest to London city streets, and from markets in India to parks in Harlem, visually juxtaposing the varied physical and social worlds these women inhabit. Packaged as a gift-worthy, hardcover book, The Atlas of Beauty presents a fresh perspective on the global lives of women today.

I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the women featured in here. They bring dignity, strength, and inner beauty that shines from page to page. From each of them I learned or was reminded of something new, whether that be tolerance, kindness, resilience, natural and authentic beauty, serenity, strength, and generosity. Plus, the vibrant and colorful photographs really brought something new to the table.

However, as captivating as the images were, I feel like the words that accompanied them, save for a few, failed to move me. In comparison to the collections I mentioned at the start of my review, it was difficult to ignore how bland the text is. I wanted to see what lies beneath the surface, to feel like we’re getting to know the person in front of us… But again, save for a few, I rarely encountered it in this collection. Also: I’m low-key sad that the utterly powerful cover picture wasn’t included in here.

On a brighter note, I’d love to share the photographs of the enthralling women that captivated me:

The Atlas of Beauty 1-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 2-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 4-- bookspoils

Pokhara, Nepal:The Atlas of Beauty 3-- bookspoils

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan:The Atlas of Beauty 5-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 6-- bookspoilsThe Atlas of Beauty 7-- bookspoils

New York, USA:The Atlas of Beauty 8-- bookspoils

Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan:The Atlas of Beauty 9-- bookspoils

Tehran, Iran:The Atlas of Beauty 10-- bookspoils

Nampan, Myanmar:The Atlas of Beauty 11-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 12-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 13-- bookspoils

 

Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador:The Atlas of Beauty 14-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 15-- bookspoils

I was truly surprised to see Eden Saban in the above, since she’s quite well-known in Israel, thanks to being on the last season of Big Brother. So now I’m quite eager to find out if the author randomly stumbled upon her and asked for a picture, or if they set this up….

The Atlas of Beauty 16-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 17-- bookspoils

On that bitter-sweet note, the sharp women and girls featured in The Atlas of Beauty have made a new fan out of me. I’m definitely interested in keeping up with Mihaela Noroc’s photography works next in the making.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: September 26th, 2017

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Atlas of Beauty, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter

“Dancers are storytellers.” 

In one thrilling photograph after another, Dancers Among Us presents professional dancers from across the country–leaping, spinning, lifting, kicking, while in the midst of daily living.

There’s no photo manipulation here, no trampolines, no gimmicks, no tricks. Just a photographer, his vision, and the serendipity of what happens when the shutter clicks.

I went into this not knowing what to expect, but was ultimately blown away by the sheer joy and awe I felt just flipping from page to page in this book. The seemingly effortless and effervescent way the dancers were captured by Jordan Matter made my head spin.

Divided into seven parts with short essays by the author accompanying each one, I was quickly swept up inside this world where everything seemed to be vibrant, sparkling and moving. There’s also a lovely dose of quotes from well-known individuals sprinkled throughout Dancers Among Us.

But for now I’d like to focus on those bits and pieces that most pierced my heart:

#1: Rise Above It All
Michelle Fleet
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 1-- bookspoils
#2: Opening Night
Parisa Khobdeh
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 2-- bookspoils

#3: Big Day
Kristin DeCesare, Jessica Press
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 3-- bookspoils

#4: Mama’s Boy
Sun Chong, with his mother
Washington, DCDancers Among Us 4-- bookspoils

#5: Vista
Evgeniya Chernukhina
New York, New York
Dancers Among Us 5-- bookspoils

#6: Save the Day
Ricardo Rhodes
Sarasota, Florida
Dancers Among Us 6-- bookspoils

#7: Saving Lives
Duncan Lyle
Boston, MassachusettsDancers Among Us 7-- bookspoilsI stared at the above picture for an hour trying to figure out how it looks so damn effortless.

#8: Transfer
Jeffrey Smith
New York, New York
Dancers Among Us 8-- bookspoils

#9: Park It
B-boy Gentl Minsung Kim
New York, New York
Dancers Among Us 9-- bookspoils

#10: Close Shave
Alyssa Desamais
Montreal, Canada
Dancers Among Us 10-- bookspoils

#11: Book Worm
Casia Vengoechea
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 11-- bookspoils

#12: Cram Session
Michelle Fleet
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 12-- bookspoils


However, the one thing I kept wondering throughout was what happened the second after the shutter clicked… Like, how did the dancers get out of their position safely?
But thankfully the author included a section at the end titled “about the photographs.” So if you’re interested in knowing more context about the inspirations or ideas behind any particular photo, you can just check out said section at the end of the book. It’s utterly brilliant and adds immense depth to each picture.

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Dancers Among Us, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Note to Self by Connor Franta

I was quite excited going into this because the promise of short essays, original photography and poetry combined into one sounded right up my alley.

You might recognise Connor Franta from his popular YouTube channel, and in this diary-like look at his life since A Work In Progress, Connor talks about his battles with clinical depression, social anxiety, self-love, and acceptance; his desire to maintain an authentic self in a world that values shares and likes over true connections; his struggles with love and loss; and his renewed efforts to be in the moment—with others and himself.

“Our words, our firsthand experiences, our shared truths can form ladders. And bring hope to others.”

However good the above might sound, in the end it didn’t live up. And I was disappointed to find Franta’s writing style coming across as quite hollow and privileged. Also, his weird “I’m a special snow flake” complex rubbed me the wrong way multiple times:

“I’ve never been a big fan of attending awards shows. Most are pretentious, and few are truly entertaining. In theory, it sounds fun to witness the glamour and chaos of the red carpet firsthand. But the truth is that once you’re done up, looking fine, and immersed in such superficial gatherings . . . it’s not all that. The novelty soon wears thin.
I don’t know. Maybe that’s just me.”

I couldn’t help but think of this hilarious tweet about Artsy White Boys™:

Then the genericness of Franta’s thoughts and feelings didn’t help his case either. There wasn’t anything compelling enough for me to continue on where the writing’s considered, so I did skim-read a lot towards the end. And another thing I want to point out: the atmosphere. It just felt so cold and standoffish with a lot of telling with little to no showing. I mean: “This. Fucking. Sucks. I’ll repeat that until you believe it: This. Fucking. SUCKS.”
Here’s an idea: How about you show me why it fucking sucks instead of repeating it for emphasis…

To be frank, Note to Self felt a lot more fitting for the blog post format than something you’d expect to read in a book. Which leads me to the pretentious Tumblr-esque poems interspersed throughout:

Note to Self 10-- bookspoils

 

Note to Self 11-- bookspoils

There’s a lot more where that came from… I’m genuinely rattled that this made it into the final version of the book.

However, to end this review on a much brighter note, I have to mention the vibrant photographs. Not going to lie, they were the only reason I continued on with this book. But I quickly noticed that – save for a few – the pictures weren’t as eye-catching as I’d hoped. (You can just go on Connor Franta’s Instagram for the same effect.)

But still, here are a few of my favorite photos to brighten this ending a bit:

Note to Self 1-- bookspoilsNote to Self 9-- bookspoilsNote to Self 7-- bookspoils

 

Note to Self 8-- bookspoilsNote to Self 6-- bookspoils
2/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Note to Self, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!