An avid publisher, book collector, and photographer, Day was a dedicated aesthete and well-known figure in turn-of-the-century Boston. He was one of the earliest advocates of Pictorial photography in America and, like Alfred Stieglitz (with whom he corresponded until they had a serious disagreement around 1902), he tirelessly wrote articles, mounted exhibitions, and encouraged like-minded photographers who supported the medium's artistic potential. His skill in composition and tonal subtlety are evident in this photograph; the strong symbolism is also typical of Day, whose family history underwrote his respect for other races (his mother was an active abolitionist). Day's depiction of Menelek refers to two important periods in African-American history: according to traditional sources, Menelek founded Ethiopia and became its first emperor in the tenth century B.C.; and in 1896 Menelek II led Ethiopia to independence from Italy.