For our medieval predecessors, red hair was an indicator of vampirism and witchcraft. For Shakespeare, it marked Judas a traitor, and for painters like Titian and Rossetti, it was a beguiling symbol of unbridled female sexuality. Today we’re still captivated by the rarity of red hair, and thankfully it’s here to stay, despite modern-day myths of its coming extinction. But popular culture continues to polarize redheads based on sex and gender, highly eroticizing red hair on women while often condemning the same trait on men. Blogs like ginger parrot celebrate women’s unique locks, and projects like Red Hot aim to “rebrand the ginger male stereotype,” proving that guys with red hair can be just as alluring as their female counterparts. Redheads will gather in Chicago this weekend for the first-ever Red Head festival in the U.S.
And now, a group exhibition by Feature Shoot brings together photographs of redheads that are far from the stereotypical femme fatale imagery we’re accustomed to. Above, click through a slide show of works by 10 photographers exploring the individuality and beauty in red hair — proof that it’s possible to reflect on history, break traditional typecasts, and still leave viewers enchanted. “In a lot of ways, someone with red hair becomes their red hair and their red hair becomes their identifying physical feature,” said artist Alison Postma, a redhead herself. In the gallery below, take look back at some historical instances of of red hair in art and culture.