An independent day school serving grades K-12 | St. Paul, MN

Litton E S Field, Jr. '75


I am delighted to be selected to participate in this year’s art exhibit as we celebrate 45 years since my class' graduation. I owe my love of photography to my time at SPA/SS. The images I have selected travel through my experiences with a camera, beginning with Jane Tiers who inspired me with her comments about the “classic S curve” in 1971. In 1972, I captured the spider windows which were located over the entrance to the Ordway Wing. Later that year, a cat caught my eye at the Old Traditions store on Grand and as well as a lady on the bus. In August of 1972, I found my love, street photography starting at the Great Minnesota Get Together. These first images came from the same roll of film. Late that same year I made a self portrait. In 1973, I found the Mama D’s fire in Dinky Town and a group on a couch at the Waikiki Hilton. The next picture in the series features clowns which were a feature on the side of my study desk at SPA/SS my senior year.

Much of my encouragement came from my teachers at SPA/SS who cheered me on and encouraged me. For that I am forever grateful. A favorite story of mine involves a late photography assignment for which I was making excuses and told, “a picture is worth 1,000 words but 1,000 words do not make a picture”.

 After graduation I continued pursuing my love of street photography. The final black & white print is from a summer working in New York City. All of these images were taken on black and white film and are original prints. Each a “full frame” print, everything on the negative included.

Film photography for me was like Christmas, every exposure was a present coming home wrapped and to be carefully developed, dried and examined. Was the image what I thought? Was the exposure correct? Did I over develop? Next a contact print and selection of negatives to print. A film roll might only have one “keeper”. Often the image I thought would be terrible, turned out to be the best.

Photography was much different, it could be weeks between exposure and printing. Today everything is almost immediate with 100’s of digital exposures which can easily be deleted and the exposure modified with software. Between 1971 and 2013, I exposed and developed 1410 rolls of film, some 39,000 images, all of them now scanned. From that, I have about 700 images which I cherish.

I long for the films, chemicals, and paper selection which I had to choose from during the 1990s. We still have a darkroom but I must admit the last film I shot was in 2013. Today I still shoot Canon SLR’s but my passion is a Leica Monochrome range finder digital camera, manual light settings and manual focus. Black and white still is more satisfying for me than color for street photography. In a typical year, I will create about 5,000 exposures, keep around 1,100, and cherish perhaps 25. This spring, we were going to spend a week in New York to photograph the city but due to Covid-19 we can only hope to go next year. Worse, this is one of the first years since 1971 that I will not have images from the Minnesota State Fair.

We are fortunate to travel and see parts of the world and wildlife that most will never see. While I bring along a monochrome, color is the best for spectacular scenery and wild life. The last image in this series is a male Elephant Seal peacefully resting on the beach at Gold Harbour, South Georgia. I love how content he is. I often think he is as content as I am when I have excellent subject matter to photograph.


Artist Video