Kieran Dodds (b. 1980) is a non-fiction photographer known internationally for his research-driven photo stories and portraiture. His personal work considers the interplay of environment and culture, tracing global stories through daily lives.
After reading Zoology at university, he was trained professionally at the prestigious Herald newspaper group in Glasgow, picking up national and international awards including a 1st prize from World Press Photo for his self-assigned story- The Bats of Kasanka. Most recently, he focussed on his home country at the time of political upheaval in Land of Scots using the landscape to consider depictions and realities of Scottish identity through time.
(displayed during the photo exhibition «The way I live» in the State Hermitage Museum in the frame of the X International Media-Forum «Dialogue of Cultures»)
«Only a ginger can call another ginger ginger!»
Tim Michin «Prejudice»
«What’s it like being ginger?»
Kieran about his project:
Cue lots of abuse and online trolling. Gingers are common fodder for idiots. Gingers, they tell us, are stupid, ugly or degenerate. It’s a recessive gene so by extension we are mutants in the bad sense. Not in the mutant hero, super-powered, X-men style mutants. If we could do that stuff no one would mess with us. All we can do is look great and reflect the sun with our porcelain skin.
Scotland has the highest percentage of ginger people in the world. Recently it was announced that Edinburgh is the world capital of ginger hair with 40% of the population carrying the gene. Only 13% actually have the blessed hair so we are still a small minority and a group that needs documented.
Stories tend to be clinical and focus on the genetic basis of the colour, its impending extinction (not true by the way) or the enduring cultural persecution. I want to build on that and make this personal. This story is asking ginger people in Scotland what it’s like to live with the rarest hair color on planet earth.
Heirs of historical hair
Scotland is synonymous with ginger hair. The 1st century historian Tacitus referred to the people in this land as «red-haired». Clearly he wasn't ginger. In the Scottish National galleries I noticed paintings of a ginger Jesus and Mary (see these examples by Bottichelli, Poussin and Raphael ). I asked a member of staff why Jesus had ginger hair but they didnt know. Perhaps they were bought by patriotic Scots? I have been told a number of theories- it’s because the paint pigment degrades or it’s a visual trick to draw the eye or it’s a crown of gold to show symbolic importance.
That moment triggered this project. I am interested in asking what's so special, or not, about being ginger in Scotland today.