Irish photographer Lizzie Patterson has spent the majority of her career photographing for the fashion and music industry, but she now turns her lens to another eye-catching group of beings: redheads! Her project, ‘Celebrating Redheads’, is about doing just that: cherishing the rarity of gingers and how the genetics of their red hair work.
Now living in Haslemere, UK, Lizzie plans to travel the world for her redhead photography, capturing the diversity of red hair wherever it can be found, with the aim of producing a coffee table book.
Molly caught up with Lizzie to find out more about the Celebrating Redheads photography project, and how any gingers out there can get involved…
Can you tell us your background in photography?
I started out in the fashion industry 24 years ago, dabbled in the music industry, having done album cover shoots for EMI and Sony, as well as travel commissions and exhibitions, magazine articles (Marie Claire, FHM, The Sunday Times), various images in coffee table books, and countless corporate, product shoots and portraits.
What inspired your new project on redheads?
An older lady, Kate Flanagan, who I saw eating breakfast in a cafe in Ireland. She was so startled at me “seeing” her and wanting to photograph her, it was as if she had been invisible all her life. Her face seemed to connect with people, but I didn’t know much about her, and I realised that everyone has a story and that I wanted to know more.
I started looking into redheads and discovered that there wasn’t much material out there apart from “hot redheads” and I wanted people like Kate Flanagan to be represented; people who may have been overlooked but who have a story.
Anything so far you’ve discovered about redheads?
I have discovered so much! The fact that even though they make up less than 2% of the population, 30% of American adverts are using a redhead as their main subject. It is because you redheads are amazing and cause a ‘rarity’ reaction in our brains.
I am also interested in the genetic clusters of redheads in Russia, South East Asia, the Berber Tribe, the Jewish community, etc. I also heard that redheads need 20% more anaesthesia, so I put up that fact on my page, and this was confirmed by people sharing hundreds of horror stories about waking up during operations and dentistry!
What do you hope to discover as the project progresses?
I am hoping to discover that children are more accepting these days of difference and less likely to tease people for their hair colour. I have to say, so far, I am surprised by how many younger people are content with their hair colour, making me think that there is a change for good.
Do you have any family members that have red hair?
I grew up in Ireland and my Granny was a fiercely wonderful redhead, but her husband didn’t carry the gene so none of her children nor grandchildren have red hair. Her sister however has all redheaded children and grandchildren.
Do you shoot on location in a studio or do you shoot elsewhere? Do you travel?
Both! I love to travel anyway, so I am now trying to convince my family to go wherever the redheads are, at least for a few years!
What is one shoot that has stood out to you so far and what’s the story?
A few days ago I had a phobic sheen as Kit (the subject) opened an insecure, scruffy beer box, containing Daisy the snake. “Don’t worry, she has never bitten anyone, ever” he said. He bled for half an hour and his nose went puffy and red. I wonder if he noticed me putting large, heavy items on top of the beer box to secure Daisy.
What is your plan of action for the project going forward?
I would ideally love to have a beautiful coffee table book published! With redheads being less than 2% of humans, I think they should be documented, treasured and celebrated.
I am hoping to cover lots of the countries that people have reached out from: Canada, Germany, Peru, America, Russia etc, and represent people of all tribes, communities, sizes, and ages.
What do you enjoy photographing (besides redheads!)?
I just love photographing people, anyone, anyhow. I seem to get on well with kids, but probably because I still am one (even though I am 44).
Interview by Molly