Stephen Wilkes

Since opening his studio in New York City in 1983, photographer Stephen Wilkes has built an unprecedented body of work and a reputation as one of America’s most iconic photographers, widely recognized for his fine art, editorial and commercial work.

His photographs are included in the collections of the George Eastman Museum, James A. Michener Art Museum, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Dow Jones Collection, Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation, Jewish Museum of NY, Library of Congress, Snite Museum of Art, The Historic New Orleans Collection, Museum of the City of New York, 9/11 Memorial Museum and numerous private collections. His editorial work has appeared in, and on the covers of, leading publications such as the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Time, Fortune, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, and many others.

Coney Island Boardwalk, Day to Night™, 2011

Wilkes’ early career interpretations of Mainland China, California’s Highway One, and impressionistic “Burned Objects” set the tone for a series of career-defining projects that catapulted him to the top of the photographic landscape.

In 1998, a one-day assignment to the south side of Ellis Island led to a 5-year photographic study of the island’s long-abandoned medical wards where immigrants were detained before they could enter America. Through his photographs and video, Wilkes helped secure $6 million toward the restoration of the south side of the island. A monograph based on the work, Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom, was published in 2006 and was named one of TIME magazine’s 5 Best Photography Books of the Year. The work was also featured on NPR and CBS Sunday Morning.

In 2000, Epson America commissioned Wilkes to create a millennial portrait of the United States, “America In Detail,” a 52-day odyssey that was exhibited in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Day to Night™, 2015Day to Night, Wilkes’ most defining project, began in 2009. These epic cityscapes and landscapes, portrayed from a fixed camera angle for up to 30 hours capture fleeting moments of humanity as light passes in front of his lens over the course of full day. Blending these images into a single photograph takes months to complete. 

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Day to Night, 2015

Day to Night has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning as well as dozens of other prominent media outlets and, with a grant from the National Geographic Society, was extended to include America’s National Parks in celebration of their centennial anniversary and Bird Migration for the 2018 Year of the Bird. Most recently a new grant was extended for Canadian Iconic Species and Habitats at Risk in collaboration with The Royal Canadian Geographic Society.
Day to Night: In the Field with Stephen Wilkes was exhibited at The National Geographic Museum in 2018. Day to Night will be published by TASCHEN as a monograph in 2019.

Wilkes’ work documenting the ravages of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy has brought heightened awareness to the realities of global climate change. He was commissioned by the Annenberg Space for Photography to revisit New Orleans in 2013 after documenting Hurricane Katrina for the World Monuments Fund. And, his images were exhibited with his photographs on Hurricane Sandy in the 2014 Sink or Swim, Designing for a Sea of Change exhibition.

Wilkes directorial debut, the documentary film, Jay Myself, world premiered to a sold-out crowd at DOCNYC in November 2018. The film is an in-depth look into the world of photographer Jay Maisel and his move out of his 35,000 sq. foot building at 190 Bowery.

Wilkes was a speaker at the TED2016: Dream Conference on his Day to Night series. The talk has 1.8 million views. In 2017 Wilkes was commissioned by the US Embassy.