In September 2011, the world’s largest sperm bank stopped accepting red-haired donors for a period of time. Why? Because the demand for their sperm had dropped to such a low level that the bank’s existing supply was easily sufficient to cover the (diminished) interest.

Single women, who currently represent half of the customer base for the sperm bank, tend to select donors based on their desire for a “dream prince.” This pursuit of an ideal reflects the increasing prevalence of a belief that new lives can be engineered, in an attempt to reach some kind of personal perfection. This is what is increasingly becoming known as new or liberal eugenics.

These personal ideals rarely feature red hair. After being scorned, persecuted and marginalized for centuries, could red-heads slowly start to become eliminated through a conspiracy of online questionnaires, aseptic clinics and frozen sperm?

As a provocation to this system, I decided to act as a conservation geneticist who would classify the genetic variation of a species, in this case, red-headed humans. For the first step, I wanted to photographically preserve the “species’” diversity and components. I began 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 I set out on a journey looking for real people who could literally, physically embody these categories. These are my results.

—Marina Rosso