F. Holland Day
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Fred Holland Day (July 8,
1864 - November 12, 1933) was a noted photographer and publisher.
At the turn of the century, his influence and reputation as a photographer
rivalled that of Alfred Stieglitz, who later eclipsed him. The high point
of Day's photographic career was probably his organization of an
exhibition of photographs at the Royal Photographic Society in 1900. It
presented 375 photographs by 42 photographers, 103 of them by Day, and
evoked both high praise and vitriolic scorn from critics.
Day belonged to the pictorialist movement which regarded photography as
fine art. His photographs allude to classical antiquity in manner,
composition and often in theme. He often made only a single print from a
negative. He used only the platinum process, being unsatisfied with any
other, and lost interest in photography when platinum became unobtainable
following the Russian Revolution.
Day's life and works have always been controversial. His photographic
subjects were often nude male youths. Pam Roberts, in F. Holland Day (Waanders
Pub, 2001; catalog of a Day exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum) writes:
"Day never married and his sexual orientation, whilst it is widely assumed
that he was homosexual, because of his interests, his photographic subject
matter, his general flamboyant demeanor, was, like much else about him, a
very private matter."
Day spent much time among poor immigrant children in Boston, tutoring them
in reading and mentoring them. One in particular, the 13-year-old Lebanese
immigrant Kahlil Gibran, went on to fame as the author of The Prophet.
Day co-founded and self-financed the publishing firm of Copeland and Day,
which from 1893 through 1899 published about a hundred titles. The firm
was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris's
Kelmscott Press. The firm was the American publisher of Oscar Wilde's
Salomé, illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley; The Yellow Book, also illustrated
by Beardsley; and The Black Rider and Other Lines by Stephen Crane.
From 1896 through 1898 Day experimented with religious themes, using
himself as a model for Jesus. Neighbors in Norwood, Massachusetts assisted
him in an outdoor photographic reenactment of the Crucifixion. This
culminated in his series of self-photographs, The Seven Words, depicting
the seven last words of Christ.
Day became all but forgotten for a number of reasons. He was eclipsed by
his rival, Stieglitz. The pictorial photographic style went out of
fashion. Most of his prints and negatives were tragically lost in a 1904
fire. And Day himself lost interest in photography and withdrew from the
Day's house at 93 Day Street, Norwood, Massachusetts is now a museum, and
the headquarters of the Norwood Historical Society.