In 2011 the world’s largest sperm bank stopped accepting red-haired donors for a period of time: which was the starting point for the photo research The Beautiful Gene by the photographer Marina Rosso, developed as editorial project by Fabrica during the time Marina was there. The reason for this refusal, which was to be partially withdrawn, seems to have been a straightforward marketing choice: demand was too low. Single women, the category that is turning to sperm banks more and more, tend to choose a donor answering to all the characteristics of a “Prince Charming”: the perfect man, handsome and healthy, educated in the best schools. And red hair is rarely included in these personal desires.
Marina Rosso has been looking into this idea: red-heads now seem to be on the point of being eliminated through a conspiracy of online questionnaires, aseptic clinics and frozen sperm. She decided to act as a conservation biologist who classifies the genetic variations of a species as a first step to preserving its diversity and components. She started by creating a matrix that would represent the red hair gene across 48 categories, each uniquely combining this feature with five physical traits (gender, height, build, eye colour and hair type). Then she set out on a journey all over Europe, looking for real people who could literally embody these categories. The result of her research are 47 portraits (one category is still missing), selected among the 204 shots of people from Italy, United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Poland.
About her work, Marina says: “The idea was born not directly from considerations on red hair, but it is the result of a research I was doing on artificial insemination. I have always been fascinated by bioethics, in particular by the shifting of morals boundaries“.
Marina Rosso (Udine, Italy 1985) is a fine art photographer. After getting a bachelor’s degree in Architecture, she studied photography at Ostkreuzschule in Berlin, followed by a scholarship at Fabrica, the Benetton Group’s communication research center, under the editorial direction of Enrico Bossan. She has been published in different newspapers and magazines such as IL sole 24 ore, Internazionale, Amica and The Sunday Times Magazine. Her last work, The Beautiful Gene, has been hosted at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin and at Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia in Milan. She recently opened Alpis, a video production company which focuses on multimedia storytelling and eclectic projects. The Beautiful Gene is her first book.
Fabrica is the research centre on communication founded in 1994, which invites young creative people from all over the world to a one-year residency as well as the opportunity to develop research projects in various disciplines, including design, communication, photography, coding, video, music, journalism and media.