From Black Box to Fieldwork — Still Cookin’!



It’s a lucite paperweight with the artwork etched in from the back.

I, James S. Oppenheim AKA J.S. Oppenheim, and Communicating Arts have enjoyed it as emblem.

Properly lit, it’s striking.

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Among the early dreams for Communicating Arts in 2006 when the move was made to Hagerstown, Maryland, a county seat in the western panhandle — and a terrific location in the mid-Atlantic collection of states — was that of shooting small objects: jewelry, inkwells, candy dishes, alabaster statues, glass eggs, and so on.  That offering continues.

As good as our cell phones have gotten with recording, much in commercial and fine art continues to recommend studio-level control.



As energies decline, and, alas, they do, some things remain more inviting as work than others.  Communicating Arts has had the privilege of spending some quality time with a very special cat, “Graycie”.

Graycie, Koch Family, November 20, 2015

Such efforts involve connection, empathy, and patience.

I’ve no idea how the catfood people wrangle or direct their talent, but method is very simple: set up, sit still somewhere, and pray.


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Communicating Arts has also enjoyed getting band work.

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Still, there may be nothing quite like an intriguing face.

Sitting Portrait, April 2012

I may have developed too much consistency in style.  Perhaps Communicating Arts should be shooting more exterior portraits and directing and producing more atmosphere and look.

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And then there’s the more cared for snapshot: “Fieldwork”, I call it.


I know I would tired of being stuck indoors with objects hour after day after week on end — but gardens and fields (add the drive, add a glass of wine, and when the light is no more, work in a restaurant for reward), they are the best places, rain or shine.


All things countryside continue to attract my attention.

It’s generally good just looking and sometimes looking twice.

White Spring


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Project: North Tract

The North Tract, National Agricultural Center, Ft. Meade, Maryland.
The North Tract, National Agricultural Center, Ft. Meade, Maryland.

Communicating Arts has a large file of gorgeous landscape and nature photographs made on what was once a combat training site for the U.S. Army.  Back when I was shooting, the “North Tract”, also known as the Patuxent Research Refuge, was treated as a Wildlife Management Area with a managed Federal hunting program that had grandfathered in that use of the land when the tanks were sent south to Arlington, Texas.  I partook.

And navigated with compass and map.

And when permitted, took a camera along.

The digital files made from 35mm were scanned at 2400-dpi and the jpegs diminished for the dial-up web of the day.

Times have changed.

The resident scanning device, which has been at my station for a while, scans at 5,000-dpi and broadband Internet has grown up.  Editions of editing tools like Lightroom and Photoshop have also advanced.  As it is still winter and I remain active as a photographer, the day has come to dig out those old files and prepare them for online display and print sales via Fine Art America (for the time being).

From about 2006-2007, the advent of blogging and broadband and numerous online communities and services, all old enough to remember the darkroom’s “soup” have been through a chaotic journey along myriad contours of the digital frontier.  We’ve made friends on Facebook and Google+, have launched inventory across social media and services like Flickr, have worked on e-retailing with such as Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, and Fine Art America — and I would venture to suggest we have learned that it is possible online to simply run out of energy and time doing nothing more than communicating.

On clear weather days and come the end of winter, there will be more fieldwork from Communicating Arts — landscapes and nature, travel — but the journey through this period, 2007-2015 has been broad, chaotic, energetic across quite a few areas of interest and skill.  Having grown wide, it may be time to narrow down some or recalibrate relations between a “trifecta” in the arts: “writer, musician, and photographer” — all true — may be finally ready to settle down.

Reflection and ripple at the North Tract, Patuxent Research Center, Maryland.
Reflection and ripple at the North Tract, Patuxent Research Center, Maryland.