F. Holland Day (American, Norwood, Massachusetts 1864–1933 Norwood, Massachusetts)
6.7 x 16.6 cm. (2 5/8 x 6 9/16 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
In summer 1898 Day gathered a group of actors, models, and friends to photograph scenes from the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ. Striving for authenticity, he had a cross and wooden nails sent from Syria and costumes from Egypt. Day starved himself for months, growing a beard and long hair to play Christ. He was inspired by his 1890 visit to Oberammergau, Germany, where a passion play is performed once every decade. When Day exhibited his sacred subjects in Boston and London, they met with controversy. Audiences were outraged that photography might attempt subjects considered suitable only to painting, and that Day—known for his eccentric dress and association with the decadent Aesthetic Movement—had the audacity to play Christ.