Sedat Pakay was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1945. A graduate of Robert College in Istanbul, Pakay later moved to the United States to study with the legendary photographer Walker Evans at the Yale School of Art, where he received his MFA degree in 1968. After graduation, Pakay freelanced in New York City and photographed for magazines such as HOLIDAY, NEW YORK, and ESQUIRE.
Beginning in 1967, Pakay set out on an ongoing project to shoot portraits of well-known artists in various disciplines; his subjects included James Baldwin, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Josef Albers, Gordon Parks, and countless others. In the late Sixties, two of his photographs were accepted to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and one of his photographs, a portrait of author James Baldwin, was exhibited at the Smithsonian Museum in 1969 and was later included in the Museum's collection.
Sedat's photographs have since been exhibited and published internationally. During the 2000s, along with his photographic work, Pakay produced numerous commercial and documentary films. Two of his documentaries were broadcast nationally on PBS.
In August 2016, Pakay died unexpectedly at his home in Hudson, NY. He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Kathleen Pakay, his son Timur, daughter-in-law Stephanie, grandson Oliver, two sisters Ayse and Nilay, and many nephews and nieces.