Fred Holland Day revisited

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St Sebastian with wounded chest (c. 1906).

The work of American photographer Fred Holland Day (1864–1933) has featured here in the past but it’s only recently that I came across the archive of prints at the Library of Congress. Not all the works there are digitised yet, and some are still unavailable for viewing, but the LoC prints one can view are always quality scans. Day would have been a significant photographer whatever his subject but his work has additional interest today for its overt homoerotic dimension; he manages to play the usual evasive games with Biblical themes or Classical mythology whilst maintaining a pictorial quality through soft focus and heavily-grained paper. The mood of some of these shots makes them seem far in advance of other work of the period.

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St Sebastian in loincloth, tied to tree with rope, arrows in stomach and side, hands behind back (1906).

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