Fred Holland Day born 8 July 1864 (d. 1933)
Fred Holland Day was a noted American 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 organisation 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; catalogue 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. Neighbours in Norwood, Massachusetts assisted him in an outdoor photographic re-enactment 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 photographic scene.
Day's house at 93 Day Street, Norwood, Massachusetts is now a museum, and the headquarters of the Norwood Historical Society.
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