The Beautiful Gene is a self-published editorial project of Fabrica photographer Marina Rosso under the direction of Enrico Bossan, head of the Slow Journalism department. Her book reflects on a possible effect of artificial insemination: the extinction of red-haired people.
On September 2011, the world’s biggest sperm bank temporarily stopped accepting red-haired donors because demand was too low compared to the supply. Single women, who currently represent half of sperm banks' customer base, tend to select donors based on the search for a “dream prince” and increasingly, new lives are engineered in an attempt to reach a sort of personal ideal, in what philosophers call "individual" or "new" eugenics. Such ideals rarely feature red hair. After being scorned, persecuted and marginalized for centuries, could redheads now begin to be eliminated in a conspiracy of online questionnaires, aseptic clinics and frozen sperm?
Marina decided to act as a conservation geneticist who would classify the genetic variation of a species in the first step to preserve its diversity and components. She started by creating a matrix that would represent the red hair gene through 48 categories, each uniquely combining this feature with five more physical traits (gender, height, build, eye color and hair type). Then she set out on a journey looking for real people who could literally embody these categories. Marina took 204 portraits and later selected 47 of them. One category is still missing.
Video by Coleman Guyon
Sound by Davide Cairo