I have probably seen my Dad cry more times to Akeelah and the Bee than to tragedy in our real lives.
The Field of Dreams Effect
My father always had the television on. Not to watch the news, or a crime show, or some reality show, but to a constant stream of TNT and Showtime movies from the 90s and early 2000s. I have probably seen my Dad cry more times to Akeelah and the Bee than to tragedy in our real lives.
As I moved away from home, my physical proximity to these movies has changed (as I can finally live in silence), but my mental proximity seems to have remained. Random quotes or scenes float from these movies through my mind on any given day—a result of my subconscious absorbent to a decade of background noise. Constantly, Adam Sandler jokes from the Grown Ups series lurk into my day to day or Interstellar acts as a framework for my contributions to discussions in class.
Field of Dreams recently floated through my mind as I shared some film photos with my roommate. I had been visiting Coney Island and Brighton Beach for weeks at this point, shooting photographs endlessly despite major fluctuation in weather. I kept telling my roommate that “if the waves kept crashing, I’ll keep going” subconsciously referencing the quote from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come.” Although any knowledge of the plot has long been forgotten, the quote, like many other quotes that day, made its return in my consciousness.
Yet, as most quotes usually float through my mind, this one lingered. I let the quote permeate for the rest of the night until it struck me in bed—I had been using Field of Dreams as a framework for my, and many other people’s obsession with specific places. For me: the beachfront.
Every city has their own “Field of Dreams”: a place that people will visit despite any temperature or precipitation. It could rain, hail, blizzard, or reach the hottest temperature in decades, but that place will still have visitors—and plenty of them. A city can have multiple Field of Dreams locations, as each local establishes their own spot(s)—a special challenge with high reward.
One of New York City’s Field of Dreams locations is the Coney Island to Brighton beachfront. Whether monsooning at 45°F or sun shining at 85°F, the beachfront will have visitors. Pushing strollers, fishing, exercising, or contemplating against the waves—people are always on the water to witness the spectacle of the beachfront. Although one could argue “it’s New York City, people are always out!” the beachfront is not a likely place to pass through, on the way from point A to point B. To go to the beachfront is to visit the beachfront, not to merely pass through, like a park on your way to somewhere.
To be honest, I didn’t really believe this theory myself at first. Living an hour from the beach, the trek out three times a week exhausts me and especially disappoints on a cloudy day when the sun dips below the horizon without peeking out of the clouds to say goodbye.
Yet, why do I keep coming back? Everytime the beach disappoints me, I return no more than 72 hours later to assume my position on the spectacle I obsess over—it was the Field of Dreams effect.
The beach had become a Field of Dreams location for me long before I had even realized. I have always had a strong disdain for rivers or ponds or bodies of water where there felt an end. Growing up in Chicago, the lakefront had no end as I looked out, with a scenery that appeared so stable in my life. Nothing or nobody determined my experience at the water as there was nothing to see, but only room to dream. There, the waves soothed me through my teenage years and the steadfast scenery provided a place undefined, only determined at moments by me.
That urge for stability followed me to New York—yet, no river park could compare. To look across the Hudson or East River gave me an end, a scenery predetermined and altered by others. With no room to dream, I found myself searching to the edge—a place where there was no end: the beach.
Coney Island and Brighton Beachfront became my first Field of Dreams location in New York. Despite my longer commute to the beach, I returned at any time of year, surrendering myself to solitude. As I returned in the below freezing temperatures or to the windiest of days, I never found myself alone, but with a community of people who had also unknowingly designated the beachfront as their Field of Dreams location.
As I have visited and shot at the beachfront this past month, accidentally, I realized I had captured the Field of Dreams effect—for not only myself, but others. April 2023 has ranged in temperatures from 33°F to 83°F. Ignoring windchill and feels like there is a 50°F variation in temperature from this month with varying precipitation I have photographed. Whether torrential downpouring in the last week of April or shockingly rising to 80°F the first week of April, people returned: an indicator of the Field of Dreams effect.
I present my case study of the “Field of Dreams Effect” on the Coney Island and Brighton Beachfront, a chronicle of photographs that showcase the spectacle of the beachfront and landmark the beachfront a Field of Dreams location in New York City.