Stephen Frailey studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and received a BA in from Bennington College in 1979. He has been the Chair of the Photography Department at the School of Visual Arts in New York since 1998 and founded their Graduate Department of Fashion Photography (MPS) in 2010. He was previously the Director of the Photography Program at the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College from 1998 to 2004.
Stephen founded the thrice-yearly magazine of photography and writing, DEAR DAVE, in 2007 and is its editor in chief. He has had solo exhibitions at 303 Gallery and the Julie Saul Gallery, and group exhibitions at Nature Morte Gallery, The National Museum of American Art, The New Museum, The Whitney Museum, Jayne Baum Gallery and many others; reviews of the work have appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, the New Yorker, and Artforum. Portfolios of the work have appeared in The Paris Review and Artforum.
He has received two MacDowell Colony Fellowships, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant in Photography and an Aaron Siskind Foundation Grant. He has been a visiting artist at the Donald Judd Foundation and a resident at the Sanskriti Foundation in Delhi, India in 1991. His critical writing appears in Artforum magazine.
He founded the Auction for Photographic Education in Afghanistan to create a photography department at Kabul University in 2003.
Stephen is on the advisory board of the Tierney Fellowship Foundation as well as a Senior support specialist for the Fulbright Foundation. He is on the Board of Trustess of the W. Eugene Smith Fund.