Stephen Wilkes

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Stephen Wilkes in 2016

Stephen Wilkes is an American photographer born in 1957. He started photography at the age of 12. Then, he studied at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where he graduated with a bachelor of science in photography.[1]

He is known foremost for his series of abandoned structures such as at Ellis Island and the former Bethlehem Steel factory both which he has captured as a lost world caught in a sort of visual amber. The Wilkes photographic essay on Ellis Island "Ellis Island Ghosts" helped to raise six million dollars from the United States Congress for the preservation of the structures on the south side of the island, including the former hospital for infectious diseases.[2] His fine art and photo-journalism have been featured in such publications as Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, and The New York Times Magazine.

The newest body of work by Wilkes is entitled Day to Night. The work embodies epic cityscapes of Manhattan and other major U.S. cities with fleeting moments throughout the day to night. Wilkes photographs them from one camera angle continuously for approximately 15 to 18 hours. A select group of images are then electronically blended into one photograph. Wilkes first came up with the idea of shooting multiple images across a landscape when taking the cast picture for Baz Lurman’s blockbuster Romeo and Juliet for Life Magazine, in 1996. It wasn’t until he was asked to shoot the High Line for New York Magazine that Stephen used this technique to show the passing of time. He is fascinated by architecture, people, and the cities of the world, but what he really loves to shoot is history. He has even shot Day to Night images of President Obama’s inauguration speech as well as New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

On November 4, 2012, CBS Sunday Morning featured Wilkes in a segment on his process in creating Day to Night images.

In 2018, Wilkes' debuted his first documentary film, Jay Myself, which premiered at DOC NYC in November 2018 and at Film Forum in July 2019.

In July 2019, Taschen published Wilkes' third monograph, Day to Night, which is available as a book and as a limited XXL art edition with print.

Wilkes' photos are in several museums, including:

  • George Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York
  • James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania
  • Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
  • Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, Massachusetts
  • Jewish Museum of New York, New York, New York
  • Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  • Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame, Indiana
  • The Historic New Orleans Collection, New Orleans
  • Museum of the City of New York, New York, New York
  • 9/11 Memorial Museum, New York, New York


  1. ^ "Stephen WILKES". Retrieved 2017-10-22.
  2. ^ "Ghosts of Ellis Island". Pottsmerc. 19 September 2010. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012.

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