Ariel and Ron Weasley, Jessica Rabbit and Princess Merida. What do these fictional characters have in common? If they were real people, they would belong to the two percent of the world’s population who carry a mutation in a gene called MC1R that results in fiery red locks and freckles. The average blonde or brunette person is either totally clueless about redheads or at best have only superficial knowledge of the genetics and may not realize that redheads are by definition mutants. The cutest mutants.
About 140 million people have red hair. It’s not without reason that the term “ginger” is widely associated with people of Germano-Celtic origin. The first MC1R gene mutations took place many thousands of years ago in Northern Europe, an area of extreme cold and insufficient sunlight. Our ancestors, who inhabited those inhospitable territories, lacked vitamin D that can be produced only when the human body is exposed to sunlight. The red-haired mutation was an evolutionary device that allowed its carriers to synthesize vitamin D without exposure to sunlight. These days, around 35% of the Scottish and Irish bear a mutated MC1R gene, and almost 13 percent actually have crimson hair.
Believe it or not, a new study suggests that redheads may soon become extinct. There is quite a persuasive reason why it’s not a joke. The planet is heating up due to global warming. Therefore, even Scots receive plenty of sunlight to produce vitamin D. This is why the MC1R gene is becoming unnecessary. However, there’s a positive side. Various creative personalities started exploring the uniqueness of people who have red hair. Here are several photographic projects that expand our understanding of who redheads are, what they (should) look like and how they affect the ‘non-ginger’ majority of mankind.
The world is irrevocably getting globalized. We live in the age of global immigration where nations are steadily intermingling. Children of mixed marriages are shaking up obsolete perceptions of origin, ethnicity and identity. French-born photographer Michelle Marshall is documenting the diversity of the MC1R gene manifestations in people of color. He stirs the perception that gingers are invariably Caucasian. His undeniably stunning portraits of Afro-Caribbean freckled redheads break the stereotypes and illustrate the ideas that human race categories are archaic, diversity and plurality are beautiful, and a difference is not an imperfection.