Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy Week Passion Play -- F. Holland Day & The Homo-Erotic Crucifixion of Christ, 1898

A disciple of Oscar Wilde & Aubrey Beardsley, trust-fund Bostonian F. Holland Day managed that curious fin-de-siecle balancing act of being utterly flamboyant & terribly secretive with great facility. His publishing firm, Copeland & Day, published U.S. editions of  Wilde's Salome (illustrated by Beardsley), the London-based periodical The Yellow Book & other fundaments of Art Nouveau & Decadence. While it's often taken as a given that Day was a homosexual aesthete in the mold of his European idols, there are at least as many portraits of women as there are beautiful scantily-clad boys (both, of course, posed in Pre-Raphaelite/Symbolist oriental settings) in his oeuvre. It's possible Day was simply a dedicated follower of fashion. A feral critic for The Photographic News called Day's photography the work "of a diseased imagination of which much has been fostered by the ravings of a few lunatics...unacademic & eccentric". The photographs represented here are just a few of the 250-plus pictures Day took in Norwood, Massachusetts showing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, with the photographer himself playing the lead. Day put himself through all the rigors of a method actor to prepare for his role in this obsessive Passion Play, losing a dangerous amount of weight, refraining from sleep & generally leading the life of a long-suffering monk for months prior to the shoot. Friends & neighbors from Norwood filled in as mourners & tormentors.

No comments: