“I wanted to take something that everybody had an idea of — ‘I’ve been there, I’ve seen the statue of liberty’ — but I wanted to show it to you in a way that you could never see it”
– Stephen Wilkes
With markets closed around the world (and since 2008 some would say), here is something different.
Below is a sampling of some of the most iconic Day to Night photos by Stephen Wilkes, each of which captures the passage of an entire day in a single frame and which, as Wired states, takes an “absurd amount of time and effort to produce” including up to 15 hours to shoot and weeks to edit. “Wilkes says he is “maniacal” in his attention to detail when making these his information-dense, hyper-curated and highly polished accounts of a single day in some of the world’s most iconic locations. Every inch of his photos, some as big as 10 feet wide, are meant to tell a story. He says telling that story is an all-consuming process.”
More on this distinctly unique creative process:
The amount of work that goes into these photos is insane. After intensively scouting a location and planning the shoot, Wilkes spends as long as 15 hours behind the camera, often on a crane high above the scene. He’ll shoot more than 1,000 frames between sunrise and sunset, trying to capture the shifting light and activity throughout his field of view. Through it all he remains as still as possible for fear the slightest move will shift the camera even a fraction of a degree.
He and his assistant pore over the photos for weeks, creating dozens of digital collages that typically comprise 50 images. He uses a complex grid system to arrange the most interesting parts of each shot into a strong composition while staying true to the time of day that they were taken. The attention to detail reveals itself when you’re right next to the massive prints, which when seen up close stretch well beyond natural peripheral vision. The smallest oversight, like a slightly shifted shadow, can shatter the illusion by betraying the fact the epic image is in fact a collage of smaller images shot at different times of day. But when everything comes together perfectly, the viewer can step back or get nose-deep in the image without losing the sense of cohesion.
Another important aspect of the work is how Wilkes teases visual narratives out of seemingly chaotic public spaces. A few hundred tourists snapping selfies in front of the Sacre Coeur or an arrest on the Santa Monica Pier become nodes of intrigue in a network connecting individual frames that form the final collage. Wilkes says finding ways to connect the countless moments held within the image and the sweep of time it captures is one of the most exciting parts of the process. “It’s as if I’m a writer and I’ve been given this incredible thesaurus, so I have all these new words to write with,” he says.
And the photos:
The America’s Cup 2013, San Francisco
Wrigley Field, Chicago
Millenium Park, Chicago
Union Square, NYC
Times Square on New Year’s Eve, 2012
Washington Square Park, NYC
The Flatiron building, NYC
Central Park, NYC
Coney Island, NY
Barack Obama’s 2013 Inauguration Speech, Washington D.C.