Stephen Wilkes Biography

Over the past three decades, through his innovative techniques and awe-inspiring images, photographer Stephen Wilkes has established himself as one of the world’s most acclaimed landscape photographers. His most recent and defining project, Day to Night, uses fixed cameras to capture cityscapes and landscapes as light passes in front of his lens over the course of a full day. 

Born in 1957 in New York, Wilkes received his BS in photography from Syracuse University. With a focus on landscapes, Wilkes’ lens has captured a wide range of events from the devastation of ground zero and Hurricane Katrina to the inauguration of Barack Obama. In 1998, an assignment to photograph Ellis Island led to a 5-year photographic study of the island’s abandoned medical wards. A monograph of the images, Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom, was published in 2006 and became one of TIME Magazine's 5 Best Photography Books of the Year. Wilkes began his latest body of work, Day to Night, in 2009. The work is his most ambitious to date, requiring two cameras - one which captures daylight, the other night - each with up to 30 hours of exposure. A monograph, Day to Night, was published by TASCHEN in 2019.


In addition to his photography, in 2018 Wilkes made his directorial debut with the documentary, Jay Myself. 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’ 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, Adobe Breakthrough Photography Award 2012 and Prix Pictet, Consumption 2014. His photo-journalism has been featured in publications including Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic and The New York Times. 

Wilkes’ photographs are held in the permanent collections of several museums, including the George Eastman Museum, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Jewish Museum of New York, the Library of Congress, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and numerous private collections including the Dow Jones Collection.