For more than two decades Stephen Wilkes has been widely recognized for his photography.
Wilkes’ images have been reproduced on the covers of such top publications as Time, Life, and The New York Times Magazine. Wilkes has been praised numerous times by the photographic and design industries with awards including the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Magazine Photography; Photographer of the Year in Adweek Magazine; Fine Art Photographer of the Year at the 2004 Lucie Awards; the Epson Creativity Award; as well as honors in Graphis Magazine; and Awards of Excellence in Communication Arts and the Art Directors Club.
In 1998, Wilkes began a personal project photographing the south side of Ellis Island—the ruined landscape of the infectious disease and psychiatric hospital wings where children and adults were detained before being granted entry to the United States. Through his photographs and video work, Wilkes inspired and helped secure six million dollars in funding towards the restoration of the south side of the island. In a review of one of Wilkes’ Ellis Island exhibitions, critic Margaret Loke of The New York Times wrote, “Each of the rooms that he photographs with care seems to have its own luxurious color scheme. Mr. Wilkes sees pleasing palettes of impressionism in walls and ceilings of peeling paint.” Leah Ollman of The Los Angels Times wrote, “Stephen Wilkes’ photographs of an abandoned section of Ellis Island are significant documents of a historical site. Strange as it may sound, they also succeed as spirit photographs, records of absent souls. The desolate corridors and vacant rooms in Wilkes’ pictures are indeed haunted—and not by just any ghosts, but by our ghosts, the ghost of our ancestors.”
Wilkes’ photographs can be found in the permanent collection of the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York; The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Jewish Museum, New York City; the Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, Massachusetts; and the James A. Michener Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania.