America’s National Pastime

Baseball continues to be America’s national pastime. It’s a beloved sport followed by millions around the country and has been synonymous with America since at least the 1850s when it first gained its recognition as the “national game.” Memories of some of Baseball’s most unforgettable players like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Willie Mays still bring excitement and joy to any baseball fan. Of course, along with the lore that accompanies players and teams like the NY Yankees, Boston Red Sox, or the Chicago White Sox of that stature.

Field of Dreams

So, when the movie, Field of Dreams, came out in 1989, it captured the hearts and minds of the public nationwide. The film, which bases its story on a cherished fantasy novel full of baseball lore, became an instant American classic. From its setting in the cornfields of Iowa, the nostalgia of Golden Age players in their vintage uniforms, and its themes of complicated family relationships and the spirited pursuit of one’s dreams, it resonated with millions of Americans. Today, as the MLB season kicks off with games on a field built for the original film, we remember the magical feeling and special aura that the iconic location provided through a photograph by Stephen Wilkes.

Looking Back

Since opening his studio in NYC in 1983, photographer Stephen Wilkes has built an unprecedented body of work as one of America’s most innovative photographers, recognized for his striking fine art pictures that capture the fleeting essence of time. Recalling one of his earlier series, where he captured the legendary rural field, Stephen Wilkes looks back on his memorable experience.

Stephen Wilkes, Field of Dreams, Dyersville, Iowa, 2020, Fuji Crystal Archival Photograph
Stephen Wilkes, Field of Dreams, Dyersville, Iowa, 2020, Fuji Crystal Archival Photograph

On August 22, 2021, in Dyersville, Iowa, the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox played the state’s first Major League Baseball game on a specially built field right next to the original Field of Dreams. When I heard this was going to happen, my memory immediately went back to my America in Detail shoot for Epson in the early 2000s, where I was fortunate to have been able to photograph on that iconic location.

This picture almost didn’t happen. We were only able to shoot for one day, and for most of the day, the sky was grey & rain was pouring down on us. To make matters more complicated, ownership of the field was split. Right center field to the house was owned by one family & left field center was owned by another. Ten minutes before sunset, the clouds started to clear. The field lights hadn’t been turned on in six years, but I asked if we could try to turn them on, and as the lights came on, a fog bank rolled in, moved through the cornfield, and the sky opened up, displaying this incredible pink color. After the shoot and the perfect sunset, we all grabbed our baseball mitts and ran down to have a catch on the Field of Dreams. It was a surreal, magical experience.” – Stephen Wilkes.