Stephen Wilkes' "Easter Mass, Vatican City, Rome, Italy, Day to Night" Coming to Barone Campus Center, Feb. 21

Stephen Wilkes' "Easter Mass, Vatican City, Rome, Italy, Day to Night" Coming to Barone Campus Center, Feb. 21

Stephen Wilkes, Easter Mass, Vatican City, Rome, Italy, Day to Night, photo

Stephen Wilkes (American, b.1957), "Easter Mass, Vatican City, Rome, Italy, Day to Night," 2016 Digital C-print, Edition: 2, 48 x 111.5.

"Easter Mass" is part of the iconic American photographer's most defining project, the "Day to Night" series.

A collaboration between the Office of the President and the Fairfield University Art Museum will bring photographer Stephen Wilkes' large-scale work "Easter Mass, Vatican City, Rome, Italy, Day to Night" to the Barone Campus Center beginning Wednesday, Feb. 21. 

Since opening his studio in New York City in 1983, Wilkes, a National Geographic Explorer, has built an unprecedented body of work and established a reputation as one of America’s most iconic photographers. He is widely recognized for his fine art, editorial, and commercial photography.  

Commenting on the installation, Philip I. Eliasoph, PhD, professor of art history and visual culture and special assistant to the president for arts and culture, said: "Anticipating the pleasure — and jaw-dropping wonder —  of viewing a jumbo-scaled photograph by Stephen Wilkes, Fairfield University will be enriched and enchanted with the artist’s audaciously scaled format. With time, patience, and meticulous accuracy, Wilkes transforms the cutting edge of photography into a journey through Einstein’s time and space continuum."

"Easter Mass" is part of Wilkes’ most defining project, the "Day to Night" series, which began in 2009. The series features epic cityscapes and landscapes portrayed from a fixed camera angle for up to 36 hours to capture fleeting moments of humanity as light passes in front of his lens over the course of a full day. Blending these images into a single photograph takes months to complete.

“My work is about visual storytelling,” Wilkes told Fairfield News over Zoom. “It’s capturing history, and really reflective of memory in a way. The Vatican was something that I had worked on getting permission to photograph for many years — I wanted to capture Easter Mass, as I was trying to tell the story of religion around the world using my "Day to Night" technique. There is an extraordinary energy around the pontiff, especially during Easter.”

The yearslong challenge to receive permission to create a "Day to Night" photograph of Easter Mass at the Vatican was resolved when a Vatican priest contacted Wilkes and connected him with the Instituto Maria S.S. Bambina. The location — with a terrace overlooking St. Peter’s Square and Basilica — was perfect. Wilkes photographed a total of 1,575 individual images and then edited approximately 50 photographs for the final "Easter Mass" photograph. Pope Francis appears ten times within the work. 

"Day to Night" has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning as well as in dozens of other prominent media outlets. With a grant from the National Geographic Society, the series was extended to include America’s National Parks in celebration of their centennial anniversary, and bird migration for the 2018 Year of the Bird. Most recently, a new grant was extended for iconic Canadian species and habitats.

“I hope that students and passersby are invited into the work and that they have a visceral experience," said Wilkes, a longtime Westport, Connecticut resident. "The closer you look, the more you see, the more stories are within the picture. ['Easter Mass'] really captures what the entire experience was like for me on that day. As time moves across the image, you see the movement of people and the changing of light; it reflects an idealized view of the Vatican.”

A solo exhibition, Day to Night: In the Field with Stephen Wilkes was featured at The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., in 2018, and Day to Night: Photographs by Stephen Wilkes was exhibited at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., in May of 2023. Day to Night was published by TASCHEN as a monograph in 2019 and 2023.

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