Inventors of Gay: F. Holland Day

By: Joe Thompson

Words by Christopher Harrity

F. Holland Day

The extremely controversial F. Holland Day is all but forgotten today as his fin de siécle images of young nude men—like the one pictured here— were eclipsed by rivals such as Alfred Steigltiz and other moderns. An American, he was the first in the U.S.A. to advocate that photography should be considered a fine art.

See more of his controversial work and learn why you should care about today's Inventor of Gay, below.

Holland__1227130011_5973 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. In the late 1800s Day experimented with Christian themes, restaging the crucifixion with himself as a model for Jesus. He was generally considered mad by then.

Friends with:
Oscar Wilde— author and playwright
Andre Gide— author
Aubrey Beardsley— erotic artist
Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden— homoerotic photographer

Why we care:
A daring sensualist, his participation as the Christ-figure in his own work paved the way for other controversial self-portraitists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Frida Kahlo. Andres Serrano and David Wojnarowicz carried on his legacy using Christian imagery in a controversial manner.

An excellent monograph from Twin Palms/Twelve Trees: Suffering the Ideal, F. Holland Day.

F.Holland Day+Crucifixion of Christ
"Inventors of Gay" is our series on important people in LGBT history who helped create the culture we enjoy today.