‘Eeewww ginger boys that look like girls,’ was my friend’s reaction to the video (above) of Thomas Knights’ Red Hot exhibition. I was trying to get him to come with me so that I wouldn’t have to go alone for the third time—I obviously never received the ‘do not like gingers’ memo whilst growing up. Ironically, it is this attitude Red Hot wishes to change.

Upon entering, one immediately notices the large portraits of almost nude, faceless men exposing their pubes. Are these images objectifying these men? Not quite—apparently the last question on everyone’s mind about gingers is, ‘Are they ginger everywhere?’ The answer is, no, and these photos are the evidence. For me, the positioning of these images was off putting. But then I forget that this is a project with a social goal—one of which is to dispel myths about gingers. Apparently they all have red pubes, and hence why they are often negatively called fire-crotch. (First time I’ve heard the term—remember, I never got the memo!)

I then begin to observe various portraits. Many of these boys are beautiful. Some faces have either many freckles or are clear, while some are skinny and others are built. But it was their gazes that caught my attention. Not only did their hair vary in various shades, but their eyes did as well. I noted brown, hazel, and blue amongst the colours. I felt this made their eyes stand out as much as their hair and into that much more of very beautiful, colourful humans.

Grey Eyes

Grey Eyes

Blue Eyes

Blue Eyes

Brown Eyes

Brown Eyes

Is he a red hot Thracian?

Is he a red hot Thracian?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As with other forms of portraiture, and in this case, for a project of a social nature, what interests me is the reception 50 years later. Like painted portraits that selectively choose what to convey, these portraits deliberately emphasise the youth, looks, and most importantly, the red hair of the models. They are time-frozen. 50 years later, these very boys will be old and their hair colour may very well have become a different tone. Their sexualised forms will be gone. But will we have moved on from stigmatising redheads? To us non-gingers, it may sound incredulous that these peoples suffer from prejudice, but until one hears the stories of abuse faced by these people, it isn’t apparent that it is a problem. (For an example, see here). This type of behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated if it were directed toward any specific ethnic and racial groups.

Unfortunately the exhibition is now over, only having run for one week from 16-22 December at The Gallery on Redchurch Street (no. 50). The plan is that Red Hot will go on tour to various cities. Further a coffee table book will be released in 2014, which I’ll impatiently be waiting for (see video below)