Kiwi photographer spreads anti-bullying message by photographing redheads in their crowning glory

Bianca Duimel captures the "beauty and bravery" of redheads.

If you think back to your school days you can probably remember the kids who were picked on. Some of them were probably children with red hair. Carrot top, ginga, ginger whinger, ranga or gingernut are among the names they might have been called.

Not many kids stop to think about whether the names hurt, and some are probably just grateful they’re not one of the kids being picked on.

But teasing someone about the way they look is a form of bullying, and children with red hair often end up the brunt of others’ cruelty.

Award-winning Matamata photographer Bianca Duimel has chosen to speak out against bullying by championing and celebrating redheads in a book project entitled Red Matters. Bianca’s books feature stunning photographs of redheads. The first of her Red Matters series is already out. Her second book is due out at the end of this month, and she is now starting on a third.

Bianca is not redhaired herself and neither are her two children. But she was bullied at school for other reasons and says she’s experienced bullying as an adult.

Bianca says she wants to open people’s eyes to the issue, as well as capture redheads’ “beauty and bravery”.

“Everyone has their own story and bullying definitely impacts you as a person.”

Bianca was inspired to create her first book after winning multiple awards for an art project that featured images of a redheaded girl. She had “discovered” her model in her daughter’s gymnastics class and was struck by how beautiful her hair was. But she’d then been surprised to learn from the little girl’s mother that the little girl had been feeling “down” at the time because she was being picked on at school.

The little girl had even moved schools because of bullying.

“Her mum was a redhead too and told me she’d been picked on all through her life. I now know 99 percent of redheads get picked on. I thought there’s a thing here. As an artist you’re able to do something in a positive way to help.”

Bianca set up a Facebook page and posted a call-out for redheaded models. “From that one Facebook post I got 600 or 700 responses – I photographed babies, toddlers, children, men and women right across the board.”

Her first book features 70 redheads. Her second, 100. The photographic sessions make Bianca’s models feel “special”. They leave feeling more confident, she reports, and sometimes their families are enlightened too.

“I had one little girl whose parents called her their ugly duckling. They did it in jest but without realising they had this really negative view of her… Well, they were in tears when they saw the pictures. It was like they were seeing her for the first time.”

From that day on the family no longer referred to her as their ugly duckling.

As part of the Escape! festival in Tauranga on Queen’s Birthday weekend (June 1-4) Bianca will be doing free portrait photo sessions with redheads of all ages and hues on June 2. To find out more visit this website.

To view more of Bianca’s photographs, scroll down.

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