should photograph. The Mexican police wrote and told me to
photograph these female firefighters there, so I did. When
I find somebody that I have
instant chemistry with, I go and
approach them. The answer is
not always yes, you’ll have a lot
of no’s, too. It depends a lot on
What was your strategy in
MN: Just talking with them,
that’s the easiest way. Also,
being honest and explaining
exactly what’s going on and
taking the time to get to know each other.
At what point did you decide to make
the work into a book?
MN: It came to mind after two years or so.
When you look at pictures on
the Internet, it’s a different experience than when you have them
in a book. And it’s easier to tell
stories with the juxtaposition of
pictures. You see pictures that
were taken from different corners
of the world, but when you see
them together in a book, they
speak to you in a certain way. So I
think the book is a better medium
to express myself and the project.
What did you learn in putting
the book together?
MN: In this book, my intent is
to allow women to feel comfortable showing themselves as
respectful and powerful women. I think this
is a very good tool for education, and this is
one of the reasons why I think I will continue
the project. People need more images like
these. I mean, people are leaning more and
more toward a natural way of portraying women, which I think is very good and healthy for
our mentality. And now, I know exactly how to
make a second book, to make it more powerful and better for educating our peers.
MN: I need more diversity. I need more coun-
tries, there are so many places that I want to go.
I started this project when I was 27 years old
and now I’m 32. Imagine how much in those
four or five years you grow up as a person. My
interests then are different from my interests
today, so I think going forward, the project is
going to have more depth. I didn’t have the
chance to go as much as I wanted to in the Af-
rican continent. I just have a few Ethiopian and
Egyptian women. But I didn’t go there much
because it’s difficult to travel there and it’s kind
of expensive. But next time, I’m really aiming
for Africa. I’ve been dreaming of some places
there, like this festival in Niger in
September, but it’s a very dan-
gerous area because of Islamist
groups. I don’t have organiza-
tions to give me security.
You travel alone?
MN: Sometimes I travel with my
husband, sometimes I’m by myself—it depends on the situation.
But when I go and work, I have
to be alone because the women
there are going to be very suspicious otherwise. Like, “Who’s
that guy?” So I have to be alone.
Also, I’m never sure how much
time I’m going to spend with
the women I photograph. Sometimes it’s going to take a few seconds because
she’s not going to want to be part of my project and that’s it, but sometimes she wants to
be part of my project and I try to spend as
much time with her as possible. Sometimes
I’m invited in their home. I might stay a few
minutes, I might stay five hours. So it’s difficult
to stay with me.
It’s sort of bewildering to think of all the
stories you have in your head now after
talking to all of these women.
MN: I have a lot of stories, but the problem is
because I’m not a native English speaker, it’s
more difficult for me to express myself with
words and writing. I’m very good with speaking in instances like this with you, just opening
up to one person, but it’s more difficult to write
things down, which is why my book doesn’t
have so many words. I will try to improve that
for my next book.
1. Be prepared for hard work. I think
about this project every day. For the
last four years, there’s nothing I’m more
focused on in my life, and that’s been
essential to producing the work.
2. Don’t give up. I had so many times
when I wanted to give up because it was
so difficult. You have to have a positive
attitude to continue. People are not
always going to get your message, things
can sometimes go wrong, so trust your
instincts and just keep going.
1. Sometimes, you just have to let
it go. It’s really hard to decide when
something’s finished. People have this
idea that when you publish a body of
work, it’s representing you and everything
that you are, but by the time the book
is printed, you’ve already evolved into
something else, and so has your work.
This is just one moment.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Turning to Elizabeth Avedon to get an
objective point of view is the best thing
I could have done. Whomever you pick
needs to be someone who believes in
ABOVE: In Cambridge, England, Noroc shot this comparative
literature student working toward a Ph.D in philosophy.