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F. Holland Day

F. HOLLAND DAY (1864 - 1933)

F. Holland Day was an American photographer and publisher most known for his nude photography of male youths and known as the first American to advocate for photography to be considered a fine art.

Frederick Holland Day was born on July 23 (not July 8, as frequently cited), 1864, in South Dedham, Massachusetts. Born to a fairly affluent Boston merchant, he attended the Chauncey School in Boston, where he acquired an interest in great literature and art. In general, there is not a whole lot of information about Day's childhood or teenage years. In 1885, he took a job at A. S. Barnes (a Boston bookseller), which he kept for five years. Day spent a lot of his time tutoring poor immigrant children in the Boston area, most notably Kahlil Gibran (who would go on to author The Prophet).

By 1889, F. Holland Day had developed a great interest in photography and decided to join the Boston camera club which would later feature his exhibit in conjunction with the Camera Club of New York in 1898 (The Last Words, a seven-part work on the Crucifixion, in which Day himself posed as Jesus Christ). In 1893, Day. By 1893, Day had published two literary magazines, The Mahogany Tree and The Knight Errant. In 1893, Day formed a publishing firm with Herbert Copeland, aptly named Copeland & Day. The firm would go on to publish 98 books during its 6 years of incorporation. The publishing house focused avant-garde poetry, children's books and essays, and included authors such as Stephen Crane, Oscar Wilde, Louise Imogen Guiney, Lionel Johnson and William Butler Yeats. Copeland & Day also brought the periodicals The Yellow Book and The Hobby Horse to American audiences in conjunction with English publishing houses.

In 1895, Day was elected to the membership in the Prestigious Linked Ring Brotherhood (as the third American to do so). In the same year, Day was featured in The London Salon of Photography, a distinguishing accomplishment in the photography field. Arguably, the climax of Day's photographic career was when the Royal Photographic Society exhibited 103 of his photographs in 1900. In 1904, Day would lose over 2000 prints and negatives in a fire and the surviving work would eventually be sent to the Royal Photographic Society in the 1930's.

At the turn of the century, Day's style and focus on male nude photography was somewhat controversial – especially of male nude youths. Day belonged to the pictorialist movement which regarded photography as a fine art and often included symbolist imagery. Much of Day's work alludes to classical antiquity, including religious-themed work. The Photo-Secessionists also invited Day to join their movement during his career but he declined. It was assumed that Day was a homosexual in terms of sexual orientation due to the nature of his work and the fact that he had never married, but any information that confirmed or denied these assumptions was kept private and is still not known to this day. Eventually, Day would begin to withdraw from exhibitions and publications without explanation.

For a long time, F. Holland Day been all but forgotten. Most of his career, Day spent in the shadows of his rival, Alfred Stieglitz, who was thought to have had the upper hand in terms of quality of work. In the 1990's, Day's work made a revival and was featured at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Day's home in Norwood, Massachusetts is now a museum (The F. Holland Day House & Norwood History Museum) and serves as the headquarters for the Norwood Historical Society.

Kahlil Gibran


Oscar Wilde


Aubrey Beardsley


Edward Steichen


Alvin Langdon Coburn


 Alfred Stieglitz


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