1895-1915: Portraits By Fred Holland Day

The portraits of American photographer Fred Holland Day (1864-1933) have an informality highly unsual for the period in which they were taken - the turn of the 19th and 20th Centruy.

Holland Day inherited the means to explore his passion for photography as art - his father was a rich trader in Boston. Despite not needing to work, Day cofounded publisher Copeland and Day, in 1893. The house published exceptionally beautiful books bound by hand, running to 100 titles, including the American edition of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé.

But for Day, photography was his primary passion, and he regarded the medium as fine art. By the turn of the twentieth century, Days reputation in photographic circles was very high, and in 1900 the Royal Photographic Society exhibited New School of American Photography, curated by Day. 42 photographers were exhibited, and of the 375 photographs, 103 were the work of Day.

Day would routinely create only a single print of each photograph, and made use exclusively of the platinum process. Yet after the Russian Revolution, platinum became increasingly difficult to obtain, and Day’s interest in photography waned as a direct result.