Stephen Wilkes

Chief Innovator. Time Capsule Creator. Photographic Visionary.

Stephen Wilkes

One of the most iconic and innovative photographers of our time, Stephen Wilkes constantly pushes the boundaries of what is possible.  The best example of this is his most defining body of work, Day to Night, begun 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 Stephen’s lens over the course of a full day. Stephen then blends the images into a single photograph, a process that 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 expanded to include America’s National Parks, Bird Migration and Endangered Habitats & Species in Canada in collaboration with Canadian Geographic. Day to Night was published by Taschen in 2019.


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 $6mm 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’s 5 Best Photography Books of the Year. The work was also featured on NPR and CBS Sunday Morning.


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.


Wilkes directorial debut, the documentary film, Jay Myself, premiered to a sold-out crowd at DOCNYC, in 2018. The film is an in-depth look into the world of photographer Jay Maisel and the massive collection of random objects that inspired him over the 40 years he collected and created in a 6-story, 35,000 sq. foot building in the Bowery, known as “The Bank.”


A few of Wilkes’ awards and honors include the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Magazine Photography, Photographer of the Year from Adweek Magazine, TIME Magazine Top 10 Photographs of 2012, & Sony World Photography Professional Award. Stephen’s photographs are showcased in collections worldwide, including the George Eastman Museum, James A. Michener Art Museum, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Dow Jones Collection, Jewish Museum of NY, Library of Congress, 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 has delivered three TED Talks and speaks widely at creative conferences, corporate gatherings, and private events. Despite his intense dedication to personal projects, Wilkes continues to shoot advertising campaigns for the world’s leading agencies and corporations, including Netflix, OppenheimerFunds, SAP, IBM, Capital One, The New Yorker, Johnson & Johnson, DHL, American Express, Nike, Sony, IBM, AT&T, Rolex, and Honda.


On-stage, in addition to offering in-depth talks about the topics he’s photographed extensively through the years, he explores the Art of seeing, and how innovation is the key to maintaining your creative edge.

Stephen Wilkes

Day to Night


In this captivating talk, Stephen shares his 10+ year quest to capture with his camera fundamental elements of our world, through the hourglass of a single day. The resulting photographs are a synthesis of art & science, exploring time, memory, and history through the circadian rhythms of a single 24-hour period.  Stephen seeks to capture iconic locations, from Africa's Serengeti to the Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Grand Canyon, Coney Island, Trafalgar Square, and Red Square—places that are part of our collective memory and echo the soul of the people and wildlife that call them home. Working from a fixed camera angle, for up to 30 hours at a time, Stephen captures fleeting moments of humanity and light as time passes. Back in his studio, he sifts through as many as 2,500 single images to select the best moments of the day and the night, and seamlessly blends them into a single photograph to capture places in ways we could never see them. These masterpieces are meditations on life, and love, and the fragile and constant interaction of humanity with our natural world.

Featured Presentation

Photos: courtesy Stephen Wilkes

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