Cornell University in New York has made a priceless photographic archive available to the public. It shows the lives of black Americans as they rose through society after the antebellum era. To see all photographs, go to: Loewentheil Collection of African American Photographs
Red hair is usually the result of a mutation in a gene called MC1R, also known as a melanocortin 1 receptor. Normally, when activated by a certain hormone, MC1R sparks a series of signals that leads to the production of brown or black pigment. Yet, in cases when both parents are carriers of the recessive MC1R gene and said receptor is mutated or antagonized, it fails to turn hair darker, resulting instead in a beautifully fiery buildup of red pigment.
As previously estimated by BBC News, between one and two percent of the world’s population — or 70 to 140 million people — are redheads. In Scotland and Ireland, around 35 percent of the population carry the recessive gene that yields crimson locks, and the redhead count is around 10 percent. As such, the word ginger often calls to mind visions of Celtic-Germanic attributes — namely, pale, white skin.
White skin and red hair may constitute the stereotypical image of a redhead, but it’s by no means a comprehensive one. French-born, London-based photographer Michelle Marshall is documenting the stunningly diverse manifestations of the MC1R gene, particularly in people of color.
“I am currently interested in documenting the incidents of the MC1R gene variant responsible for red hair and freckles, particularly amongst black and mixed raced individuals of all ages,” Marshall wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.
“I want to stir the perception that most of us have of a ‘ginger’ as a white caucasian individual, potentially of Celtic descent … As we struggle with issues of immigration, discrimination and racial prejudice, Mother Nature, meanwhile, follows its own course, embracing society’s plurality and, in the process, shaking up our perceptions about origins, ethnicity and identity.”
Marshall originally devised the project, which she referred to as a “visual census,” to document different manifestations of freckles. Eventually, she refined the project, embarking on a mission to document as many Afro-Caribbean redheads as possible. All of Marshall’s subjects thus far have been complete strangers who she has discovered through social media, word of mouth or running into each other on the streets.
The close-up portraits document every freckle and stray hair, with every image, expanding the dominant, narrow understanding of what redheads can and should look like.
The photographs and their subjects are undeniably stunning. However, the enchanting appeal of the images has its drawbacks. “A beautiful picture doesn’t always relate what it’s like to be different,” Marshall said in an interview with Vice. “There’s a flipside to being different: it’s not always accepted. Beautiful photography serves one purpose, but in the context of daily life people may not have that reaction.”
“For me, growing up tall, mixed-raced, with thick, frizzy ginger hair, in a predominantly white, working-class seaside town was not the ticket. At 13 years old I was buying skin whitening cream from Boots to pulverize the freckles and at 14, during my Slipknot phase at the turn of the millennium, was violently straightening my newly-dyed black hair. Now, though, I couldn’t care less and relish being unique.”
Categorizations fall short. Stereotypes disappoint. Difference is beautiful. There is a lot to learn from Marshall’s striking portraits, if we could only stop staring at them:
Twenty-four talented individuals were recognized Wednesday morning after they were named the 2013 class of MacArthur fellows – an honor given to an extraordinary group made up of individuals who have achieved much success in their personal creative pursuits. This year, three African-Americans — Kyle Abraham, Tarell McCraney and Carrie Mae Weems – have been identified by the MacArthur Foundation and join the group of fellows who are each awarded $625,000 to use as they wish towards their creative visions.
“This year’s class of MacArthur Fellows is an extraordinary group of individuals who collectively reflect the breadth and depth of American creativity,” said Cecilia Conrad, Vice President, MacArthur Fellows Program. “They are artists, social innovators, scientists, and humanists who are working to improve the human condition and to preserve and sustain our natural and cultural heritage. Their stories should inspire each of us to consider our own potential to contribute our talents for the betterment of humankind.”
In particular, the work of these three visonaries attempts to teach lessons and transform the ideas associated with the African-American experience. Abraham is a New-York-based dancer and choreographer whose work is often inspired by some of his childhood memories growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
South African photographer Zanele Muholi has spent the last 10 years determinedly creating a visual archive of black lesbian life in South Africa, often in the face of considerable opposition.
Her work was recognized with a major international freedom of expression prize at the Index on Censorship Awards, which, according to chairman Jonathan Dimbleby, celebrate the fundamental right to “Write, blog, tweet, speak out, protest and create art and literature and music.”
Other winners announced at the annual prizegiving evening in London included Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai and Greek editor Kostas Vaxevanis.
Muholi said that South Africa was country of huge contrasts for gay people: on the one hand it has been enormously progressive and in 1996 became the first country in the world to constitutionally prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation; on the other, there is a culture of fear if you are gay and serious hate crime is a huge problem, including “corrective” rape to “straighten out” lesbians. In the last year, four women have been murdered because of their sexuality, including Phumeza Nkolonzi, 22, who was shot dead in front of her grandmother and niece, and Sihle Sikoji, aged 19 when she was stabbed to death.
Frank Ocean has already taken the music industry by storm and is now moving on to fashion. Aside from blending sick urban style and high-end couture, (think of his sleek and chic navy blue Dior Homme Spring 2013 look he rocked at the Grammys) Ocean has been hobnobbing with industry leaders like designers Riccardo Tisci, Raf Simons, and Karl Lagerfeld. Ocean also attended Fashion Week in Paris chilling at the Dior and Givenchy fashion shows and striking a pose for GQ Magazine.
Now the “Forrest Gump” singer is headlining in his first fashion campaign as the latest subject in Band of Outsiders’ ongoing Polaroid series. Ocean joins the likes of Josh Brolin and Michelle Williams who also modeled for the brands new segment. The sun-kissed images were shot at the Los Angeles Times building by creative director Scott Sternberg. In the hazy shots Ocean rocks the brand’s Spring 2013 collection, featuring a dapper white shirt, black trousers, and a tuxedo jacket with a satin lapel.
Stay tuned to the Band of Outsiders’ Tumblr and Instagram pages as new images from the shoot continue to pop up.
Men and women of the Herero tribe feature in a new book by photographer Jim Naughten, published by Merrell. Wearing traditional costumes fashioned on the influence of the missionaries and traders of the late nineteenth century, Naughten’s dramatic portraits reveal Namibia’s colonial history. An exhibition of the photographs will open at the Margaret Street Gallery, London on 5 March 2013.