A certain ginger air

Red hair has not always had the best press. But one University of Wolverhampton student is hoping to transform people’s opinions with an exhibition to celebrate all things ginger.
Some scientists believe the gene that causes red hair could die out in the next century. For some people, that might sound like a good thing. But for photographer David Rann it has provided the inspiration for a whole exhibition focused on celebrating the unusual colouring.
As part of a module for his MA Fine Art at the School of Art & Design, David decided to photograph the whole spectrum of red hair and began appealing for volunteers in the West Midlands. He was overwhelmed by the response. Photographed in identical circumstances with the same white background, participants’ hair, freckles and pale skin are captured in the series of images which have formed David’s exhibition, ‘Melanocortin-1 Receptor’. The exhibition launch, titled ‘Gingerfest’ and held at the Quadrant Lounge in Wolverhampton, attracted a huge amount of television, radio and newspaper interest.
“It always had the potential to interest people – after all, it is relevant to around eight percent of the UK population. But I did not expect it to be as big as it has been,” David admits.
Red hair is historically a much-maligned colouration, but David admits to finding it beautiful. His wife is blessed with auburn hair, and though not a redhead himself, David must also carry the so-called ‘ginger gene’ Melanocortin-1 Receptor, as his young daughter has begun to show signs of having red hair too. The response from redheads and their families has been extremely positive.
“The comments have mostly been to say that it is great to see something positive about redheads. I have always loved the colour and I have always found it to be attractive,” David says.
David, from Dudley, decided to do a MA Fine Art at the University to make him stand out after gaining a First in his Photography degree
The 43-year-old says: “I was in my 40s and I thought there would be a lot of people with photography degrees, but I thought an MA would give me the edge. With a postgraduate degree you learn certain skills and can pursue special interests. I thought doing an MA would give me the incentive and momentum to try new things I would not have done otherwise, like video. I am doing the MA part-time while also building up a photography business so it is quite hard to fit everything in!”
For David, a module at University has opened up a whole host of opportunities, and he is excited about what the future may hold for his exhibition. He has received interest from all over the country in Gingerfest, and is considering moving it around to different locations. He is also looking into the possibility of photographing redheads from each area for location specific exhibitions. He might also like to pursue a UK Red Hair Day – similar to one held in the Netherlands. But one thing he didn’t expect was the positive emotional stories of increased confidence and contentment from his participants, and that must give him an extra special sense of
To view more of the images from Melanocortin-1 Receptor, visit: www.davidrann.com
For details about the MA Fine Art and other School of Art & Design courses, visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/sad