JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – How should you celebrate World Redhead Day? Keith Barraclough, a commercial portrait photographer from New York, says, "Let your hair down, go outside and flaunt it!"
Barraclough, the creator behind the Redhead Project isn't a redhead. On his Facebook page, he lists his interests as cycling and soccer, but he definitely has a knack for photographing natural redheads. People with red hair make up only 2% of the world's population.
He's traveled across the country photographing exactly 454 gingers. Barraclough says this term is more accepted now in American culture, but in the U.K. calling someone a ginger would definitely be an insult.
Between 2015 and 2017, Barraclough traveled to Orlando, Stuart and Vero Beach, responding to inquiries by people who wanted to be a part of what he now calls The Redhead Project. It's all about revealing how unique and striking redheads are, not just physically because of their hair, but also their personality.
Barraclough says he didn't know any redheads personally. No one in his family had red hair, so he created an interview process to find the perfect subjects for the project. Their hair can range from bright orange to strawberry blonde, but it has to be natural. What he is looking for is big personality. Almost all of the redheads he photographed have a bizarre props or comical expresions. Some are just eccentric.
His initial spark for photographing people with red hair came after a corporate shoot he did for a man with red hair. He described his subject as having "piercing blue eyes, very short red hair and very white skin." He said many colleagues and friends said how compelling the portrait was.
Barraclough says photographing Florida's redheads was a sharp turn from the northeasterners he had worked with up to that point. He said the Floridians all wanted to pose with fishing poles. Many have an interest in swimming or other beachy things.
He says a lot of people with red hair told him they were picked on as children. During The Redhead Project photo shoots, many of his subject felt these pictures were a way to show off their hair and flaunt it. "They are not ashamed of it anymore," he said.
A local mom got her son the chance to be photographed by Barraclough. Kim Thompson's son, Drake, is 9 years old, and she said one of his schoolteachers picked on his red hair. "They called him carrot top, and his feelings were hurt," she said. When Barraclough invited them to Stuart to model for the The Redhead Project, she said Drake loved it. She said it will be something he never forgets.
May 26 is an unoffical holiday, but around the world redheads are being praised, not picked on. How the holiday got started is unknown. National Geographic credits painter Bart Rouwenhorst with making the first festival for redheads in 2005. This was inspired by his interest in painting reheaded women, which led to a casting call that hasn't stopped for the past 14 years. Rouwenhorst himself is a blond.