Fred Holland Day was a wealthy eccentric and philanthropist from Massachusetts. As partner in the publishing firm Copeland and Day, which he founded in 1884, Day indulged his passion for English literature, publishing exquisite small-edition, hand-bound volumes by the likes of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Day's friend Oscar Wilde. Although Copeland and Day published ninety-eight books and periodicals, the firm was never financially successful.
Day began to photograph in 1886; and he wrote extensively about photography's position as a fine art and organized international photography exhibitions to further his claim. He asked: "And if it chance that [a] picture is beautiful, by what name shall we call it? Shall we say that it is not a work of art, because our vocabulary calls it a photograph?"
Day's photographs were controversial for their unconventional depiction of religious subject matter and for the male nudity that he employed. His style was Pictorialist, and he favored platinum prints, which are distinguished by their fine detail and ability to render a full range of soft tones. He lost interest in photography when a shortage of platinum during World War I made printing prohibitively expensive and eventually impossible. He died twenty years later, in relative obscurity.