Stephen Wilkes Stops Time

Westport artist Stephen Wilkes spends 15 hours a day in a bucket truck, suspended high over whichever New York scene he’s shooting: Central Park. Times Square. Coney Island.

He’ll shoot 1,400 images — and never take a bathroom break.

But that’s not even the most remarkable thing about his work.

Washington Square Park (Photo by Stephen Wilkes)

Wilkes spends the next 4 months examining every single shot. He searches for tiny, telling details, like 2 men’s hands that seem to reach toward each other — taken several hours apart.

He stitches his favorite shots together. Sure, he uses a computer — but it’s hands-on, intricate, intensely tedious work.

When he’s done, Wilkes has produced a “Day to Night” shot. It’s as if 1 photo shows a 15-hour span.

Of course, it’s dozens of images. Amazingly — though one side of his work is light, the other dark — you can’t see any separation at all.

This past Sunday, “CBS Sunday Morning” profiled the Westporter’s astonishing artistry.

A national audience heard Wilkes describe “Coney Island.” The right side of the photo — the beach — was crowded during the day. The left side — the amusement park rides — were equally packed at night. The dividing line, though, was nowhere to be seen. Day morphed subtly into night, just as it does at the real Coney Island.

Coney Island. (Photo by Stephen Wilkes)

CBS showed other Wilkes works. There was the Flatiron Building — taken on September 11, 2010 — with “ghost lights” from the Twin Towers. Central Park, in an ice storm. Washington Square Park, where brides kept appearing at different times during the day.

Though New York offers a seemingly endless array of “Day Into Night” possibilities, Wilkes may soon turn his 15-hour lens on Shanghai. Or Jerusalem.

Months later, the world will see his spectacular images.

All of which he works on — day and night — right here in Westport.

Flatiron Building (Photo by Stephen Wilkes)

(Click here to view the CBS-TV “Sunday Morning” video clip.)

7 responses to “Stephen Wilkes Stops Time

  1. Stephen is brilliant and he has a fabulous sense of humor. His story telling is the best, always fascinating and often hysterical. His photographs have heart and soul. Is there going to be an exhibition of these incredible photos?
    Bravo Stephen.

  2. The Flatiron Image is stunning. My father pointed out this building to me some time in the 1930’s. He mentioned its possibility of being blown down, when built.

    For the curious, a follow-up on Wikipedia will provide a lot of history including photos from the start. I hope this photo can be inserted in this listing, it should be there!

  3. He & Miggs should have a WESTPORT show.

  4. Excellent post, Dan, thanks for your excellent researcher’s eye and brain.

    > >

  5. Dan, once again you’re on top of it! I caught the Sunday segment and then went looking for “Day into Night” — no luck. Can you help? Many thanx as always. Lyn

  6. What’s up, its pleasant post regarding media print, we all understand media is a impressive source of data.