Stephen Wilkes (American, b. 1957)
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, Griffin Museum
of Photography, 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.
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
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.
Day 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. 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 recently extended to include America’s National Parks in
celebration of their centennial anniversary. The series will be published as a monograph in 2017.
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.
Despite his intense dedication to personal projects, Wilkes continues to shoot advertising
campaigns for the world’s leading agencies and corporations, including: OppenheimerFunds,
SAP, IBM, The New Yorker, Johnson & Johnson, DHL, American Express, Nike, Sony, Verizon,
IBM, AT&T, Rolex, Honda, McCann Worldwide, Ogilvy & Mather, and McGarry Bowen.
Wilkes is currently working on a documentary film about legendary photographer Jay Maisel’s
historic Bank Building at 190 Bowery. And, in 2016, his photograph Day to Night, Wrigley
Field, will be included in Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843- Present, an exhibition
at The Brooklyn Museum curated by Gail Buckland.
Wilkes’ extensive awards and honors include the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Magazine
Photography, Photographer of the Year from Adweek Magazine, Fine Art Photographer of the
Year 2004 Lucie Award, TIME Magazine Top 10 Photographs of 2012, Sony World Photography
Professional Award 2012 and Prix Pictet, Consumption 2014. His board affiliations include the
Advisory Board of the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications; Save Ellis Island Board of
Directors, on which he served for 5 years; and the Goldring Arts Journalism Board.
Wilkes was born in 1957 in New York. He received his BS in photography from Syracuse
University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a minor in business
management from the Whitman School of Management in 1980.
Wilkes, who lives and maintains his studio in Westport, CT, is represented by Peter Fetterman
Gallery, Los Angeles; Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, New York; Monroe Gallery of Photography,
Santa Fe; and Artitled Contemporary, The Netherlands.