Coburn was introduced to photography by his cousin, the prominent pictorial photographer F. Holland Day, with whom he traveled to Europe in 1900. Coburn first exhibited that year at the London Salon. In 1902 he became a founding member of the Photo-Secession and the following year he was elected to the Linked Ring. In 1904 his first portfolio appeared in Camera Work. In 1906 he had his first one-man exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society. In 1910 he began a series of books illustrated with hand-pulled photogravures. Coburn was strongly influenced by the Cubists, and began experiments with abstraction in photography. In 1917 he exhibited photographs which were made using three mirrors fastened together which fractured the image in kaleidoscopic fashion. In 1919 he moved to North Wales and began to investigate the mysteries of nature and science through the agencies of Freemasonry, Christianity and Zen Buddhism. In 1932 he became a naturalized British subject.