On a sunny Saturday in July, we noticed a photographer with a large format camera perched in a cherry picker above the Boardwalk at West 12th Street. The Coney Island Rumor Mill had no idea what the photo shoot was for, but it was an unusual sight and we snapped a few photos. Our first guess was that Google had sent someone to do panoramic photos of Coney Island, but as the hours went by it became clear he was shooting from a fixed perspective all day and into the night.
Yesterday we realized the mystery photographer was Stephen Wilkes after coming across his stunning “Day to Night” photo of Coney Island’s beach, boardwalk and amusement rides. “That was indeed me in the cherry picker on July 16th,” wrote Wilkes in an email. “A perfect Saturday on Coney Island.”
Wilkes says that he photographs a scene continuously for up to 15 hours. “A select group of images are then digitally blended into one photograph, capturing the changing of time in a single frame.” In regard to the Coney Island photo, Wilkes told ATZ: “We will be launching a really cool time lapse video from that particular shoot, which will also be in the gallery exhibition.” The “Day to Night” series includes images of Times Square, the High Line and Central Park, among others, and will be on view at ClampArt Gallery in Chelsea from September 8 through October 29.
In an interview with Jen Doll in the Village Voice, Wilkes said his favorite photo of the series is the one of Coney Island:
The perspective is from floating above the boardwalk. The amusement park is night, the beach is day, and it’s full of activity. The level of detail — I’m working with a large-format camera, and it’s exciting that people can see the detail online, but in person, you can see it 60 inches big, and the photos look like windows, and you can actually see into people’s windows…
“Stephen Wilkes: Day to Night,” September 8-October 29, 2011. ClampArt, 521-531 West 25th Street, Ground Floor, New York, NY 10001, 646-230-0020. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11-6. Opening reception: Thursday, September 8, 6-8pm