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During this era, cyanotypes were often used as a proofing method before the final platinum or gelatin silver print was made.6 However, it is highly likely that this cyanotype was not a proof and was, in fact, Day’s final product. the darker blue dots flecked throughout the bottom half of the image seem to be retouches by Day himself, as the work has a direct provenance from Day’s estate.7 given these corrections, the image was meant to be blue—otherwise, why correct a proof? Because sky and water are blue, the hue of the photograph adds to its realism. However, because photographs during the early twentieth century were typically black and white, the blue in this work appears false and miraculous. the color thus enhances the expressiveness of the photograph as Day captured a scene that he believed to be extraordinary and otherworldly. this print depicts little good Harbor in the actual color of the sky and water and also evokes its metaphorical loftiness.


over a century later, Meghann riepenhoff created her cyanotype littoral Drift #3 in rodeo Beach, California, by directly submerging paper into the ocean (fig. 29). the residue from the water stippled the page, leaving a mesmerizing image. Because she never completely fixed these cyanotypes, they continue to change over time and react to the environment surrounding them, “blurring the line between creation and destruction” and perhaps reminding the viewer of life’s fragile beauty.8 the similarities between this work and little good Harbor, Maine are abundant. Although Day, unlike riepenhoff, used a camera to capture the scene before him, his final image is murky, enchanting, and almost abstract. it looks as if it were submerged in water whereas littoral Drift #3 actually was. in riepenhoff’s work, the dips and curves of the blue-speckled mass in the lower part of the image contrast against the indigo backdrop and mimic the dips and curves of the land in little good Harbor, Maine. Both images convey the wonder of nature, showing that even that which comes from earth can create that which appears to go beyond.


Patricia J. Fanning, through an Uncommon lens: the life and Photography of F. Holland Day (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008), 1–7.


Day famously declined joining Alfred stieglitz’s Photo-secessionists because of disagreements with stieglitz.


Fanning, through an Uncommon lens, 202–4.


Patricia J. Fanning, e-mail message to author, November 30, 2015.


Patricia g. Berman, “F. Holland Day and his ‘classical’ models,” History of Photography 18, no. 4 (December 1994): 349–51. Berman notes that White’s photography school was perhaps inspired by Arthur Wesley Dow, who was teaching art in ipswich, Massachusetts, at the time.


John A. tennant, “the ‘Blue Print’ and its variations,” Photo-Miniature (January 1900): 481–82.


Worcester Art Museum purchased little good Harbor, Maine from the lee gallery, who acquired the object directly from Day’s estate. therefore, this object probably never saw an outside conservator, meaning that these corrective marks were likely made by Day. Fred Holland Day object file, Worcester Art Museum.


Meghann riepenhoff, “littoral Drift,” Meghann Junell riepenhoff: Fine Art, accessed october 29, 2015,


Fanning, through an Uncommon lens, 1.

Day’s work is timeless, sharing qualities with more contemporary works such as riepenhoff’s littoral Drift #3. Day saw photography as the “wield[ing] of a sunbeam” and hoped to paint a picture with his camera, capturing little good Harbor as he saw it: celestial and otherworldly.9 Just as the small harbor in Maine transcended reality for Day, the cyanotype transcends reality for the viewer.

Fig. 29: Meghann riepenhoff, American, born 1979, littoral Drift #3 (rodeo Beach, CA), June 13, 2013, cyanotype, Worcester Art Museum, Funded by the Douglas Cox and Edward osowski Fund for Photography in memory of robert A. royka (1933–1996) and Margaret Kent royka, 2015.44 © Meghann riepenhof


Cyanotypes: Photography’s Blue Period  

Cyanotypes: Photography’s Blue Period Edited by Nancy Kathryn Burns, Assistant Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Kristina Wilson...

Cyanotypes: Photography’s Blue Period  

Cyanotypes: Photography’s Blue Period Edited by Nancy Kathryn Burns, Assistant Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Kristina Wilson...