Behind the scenes: A Blue Note Records photo shoot

With the upcoming release of a new album featuring Bobby Hutcherson, David Sanborn, Joey Defrancesco and Billy Hart I was hired by Blue Note Records to do a photo shoot during a recent gig at the SFJAZZ Center

The individual and group portraits of the band were for publicity and a possible feature story in Jazz Times Magazine about Bobby Hutcherson.

The May issue of Jazz Times released yesterday features a cover story about Bobby Hutcherson and the new album by this superb quartet will be released in June.


I rarely get to see what I look like while working and thanks to Stephanie Pappas I have a some photos of myself during the shoot


Another good day on the job shooting jazz musicians at the SFJAZZ Center.  Some days are just work and others are worth writing about.

For more photos and information visit Scott Chernis Photography


A week in the life of a freelance photographer

As a freelance photographer I often have the feeling that the job I am currently working on will be my last, at least for awhile.  I also go through stretches when I am so busy that it feels like I won’t be able to accomplish all that I have taken on.  This is the dilemma that we go through as freelancers.  “Feast of famine”, “When it rains it pours”, “Make hay while the sun shines”.  These cliches creep into our conversations, they litter my thought processes and while all of this is true there is still no job I would rather have.  I love the rush I get when I’m working 15 hour days for multiple days in a row.  I thrive on the controlled chaos of managing three different projects at the same time.  Then there is the possibility of some great project just showing up in your inbox or the last minute text message that refocuses your energy and renews the passion.

I just completed a long stretch of daily shooting, 12 of 14 days, some days being quite long.  I survived and even created some decent images and now I know a little bit better how to manage a stressful schedule.  Let’s look at one week in this stretch of work.  Seven days in a row of photography work, six different projects and six different locations all in San Francisco.

Saturday, January 25th at 9:00 am at San Francisco International Airport:

The brand new terminal 3 is opening to the public and the SFJAZZ High School All-Star band is playing as part of the celebration.  This is a small job and I shoot for a couple of hours while the band performs for the community.


From SFO I race up to Moscone Center where I am starting a 4 day project photographing a conference on medical simulation.  The IMSH brings together thousands of doctors, nurses, paramedics and hospital administrators to learn about and practice on the latest medical simulation technologies.  This is fascinating stuff with mannequins that breathe and have severed limbs all so that medical professionals can practice before they need to work on a real emergency.  I shoot a lot of Industry Conferences and as far as they go this one was pretty cool with some amazing technology to photograph.


Saturday was not over yet and while I still had many days left of IMSH I had one more job at night.  The UC Davis College of Engineering was hosting an annual awards dinner at the St. Francis Yacht Club which is where I headed next.  Awards dinners are not very exciting to photograph, lots of people standing around and talking, dinner and of course the awards presentations.  UC Davis calls from time to time when they are having alumni events if the Bay area or need a portrait for a campus publication, tonight it was dinner and I was a few minutes late due to the other jobs of the day.  When I arrived the sun was setting behind the Golden Gate Bridge and I got to work.

UC Davis

The next few days were spent working on IMSH at Moscone Center.  More stage presentations and exhibit hall photographs with daily edits being done at night.  On Tuesday night, January 28th I photographed the San Francisco Waldorf High school Eurythmy performance.  I won’t try to explain what it is but I’ll show you a pretty picture.

SFWHS Eurythmy Performance

I was dragging on wednesday morning when I arrived at Moscone Center for the final day of IMSH.  It was a short day, just a few hours in the morning but I started another conference that afternoon at the Parc 55 Hotel.  After finishing around 11:30 I treated myself to an acupuncture session at Yerba Buena Community Acupuncture and I was refreshed and ready to go.  Optical Document Security is not sexy and it is not visually interesting either.  However, it is impressive to hear about the many different technologies that go into to safeguarding currency around the globe from counterfeiters.  Those holograms and color shifting numbers do not happen without some intense brain power. I love being a fly on the wall in these rooms that I have no business being in other than the camera hanging from my shoulder.

ODS_2014 515

As ODS 2014 wrapped up on Thursday evening I was looking forward to a much needed rest and the upcoming weekend was free of any work commitments other than some editing.  Thank you Cory Barlow for all your help in that department.  I met a couple of friends for a drink and that is when the week got flipped around.  It is always nice to know people with friends in the restaurant business, especially 5 star restaurants.  When we walked into Fleur de Lys and received a house special cocktail I knew the night would be fun.  After appetizers and a short walk down the street we were treated to a DJ set spun by Chef Hubert Keller at the Starlight Room.  I had to grab my camera for this one.

Chef Keller and Marcus Garcia at Starlight Room

Let me rewind a bit.  I said I was looking forward to some much needed rest and a weekend off.  During our snack at Fleur de Lys I received a text message from Marshall Lamm publicist for SFJAZZ asking if I could photograph Dave Chappelle that weekend.  I said yes.  Sometimes rest has to wait and when a project arrives to balance out the mundane shooting of some other jobs it is a gift.  The photography business is tough most of the time, but sometimes everything just falls into place.  Six shows over three nights with Dave Chappelle and an incredible list of friends was the project I needed to close out a hectic and beautiful week.

Dave Chappelle at SFJAZZ

For more on Dave Chappelle at SFJAZZ check out

For more on Scott Chernis Photography check out

Another great musician moves on


George Duke at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival May 2013

It seems like we are losing musicians every other week these days.  Some are old and others just may have lived too hard, but each loss closes a chapter in the continuum of music.  As a photographer I have photographed many musicians over the years and I have missed the opportunity to ever photograph many more.  My heroes of this craft Jim Marshall, Michael P. Smith and Herman Leonard are all gone now but their images live on.  It is these photographs that I study and try to learn from, but I know that I will never photograph the legends that have shaped the music I attempt to document every time I go out  to a show with my camera.  A few months ago I began to collect images of musicians that I have photographed who are no longer with us and I wanted to share this collection.  George Duke passed away on Monday and I saw him for the first and last time this past May in New Orleans.


Al Grey at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 1999.  He died the following year.


Alice Coltrane during her last concert Masonic Auditorium 11/4/06, she passed away in January 2007


Earl King’s funeral 5/1/03

I never photographed him alive but with Aaron Neville singing over his open casket I had to include his photo


BJ Pappa at the Gathering Cafe in North Beach around 1998

BJ was a local San Francisco legend and a good friend of mine.


Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown at Cafe Istanbul in New Orleans 1997

This is still one of my favorite photographs.  I was young and inexperienced when I a shot this image but with the help of a full lighting set up from a video production I got my shot.  I was able to give a print to Gatemouth a few years later when he came through San Francisco.


Dave Brubeck at Masonic Auditorium for SFJAZZ


JohnLee Hooker at the San Francisco Blues Festival around 1995-96

I remember squeezing up to the front of the crowd to get this shot.  I had no access so I had to work hard for this mediocre shot.


Merl Saunders at The Marin Music Festival


Uncle Lionel Batiste showing off during a second line in New Orleans


Vince Welnick at Truckee Amphitheater


James Durant of Rebirth Brass Band at North Beach Jazz Festival

James Durant died way too young


Mike Houser from Widespread Panic


James Moody at Stanford Jazz Festival


Marva Wright at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival


Abbey Lincoln at Herbst Theater


Allen Woody of the Allman Brothers Band and Govt’ Mule


Coco Robicheaux at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival


Etta James

She could barely walk, but she could still sing


Max Roach at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival


Percy Heath at Stanford Jazz Festival


Ronnie Mathews’ hands on the piano at fantasy Studios in Berkeley

This turned out to be Ronnie’s last recording session


Martin Fierro of Zero and many other bands

When I first moved to San Francisco in 1995 Zero was big and this image along with a few others of the band helped me get started.


Ed Kelly at Coit Tower for The North Beach Jazz Festival


Allen Smith at The Palace of Fine Arts


Ruth Brown at The Stanford Jazz Festival


Snooks Eaglin at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival


Mulgrew Miller at Stanford Jazz Festival


Ron Stallings at Intersection for the Arts

San Francisco at the center of jazz world

ImageSan Francisco is known for many things, but until last week jazz was not one of them.  This is not to say that the local scene is not filled with talented and passionate musicians, pushing boundaries and creating music worth checking out.  What I mean is that San Francisco has not received the respect and has not fostered an environment where young musicians want to stay and build a career.  On January 23, 2013 the SFJAZZ Center opened its doors with and all-star concert and has firmly planted San Francisco at the heart of 21st century jazz.  Built from the ground up as the only performance space in the world specifically designed to showcase jazz music, the SFJAZZ Center is an incredible venue and I was fortunate enough to attend and photograph the inaugural performance.

With Bill Cosby acting as master of ceremonies and veritable who’s who of jazz taking the stage in various configurations throughout the night this concert will reverberate through the industry for many years to come.  I do hope these photos will help to highlight the evening in all its glory.


Bon Iver is not a person

Justin Vernon is the voice and artistic creator of Bon Iver.  The band and concept is his vision and he alone accepted the best new artist Grammy a couple of weeks ago, but Bon Iver is a band and Justin Vernon is a person.  Jethro Tull is also not a person, but that is a different post.  I had the opportunity to photograph Bon Iver at the Fox Theater in September of 2009, and it was an incredible show.  I was not familiar with the band at the time and their album For Emma, Forever Ago turned an obscure singer songwriter from Eau Claire, Wisconsin with an incredible falsetto into a national phenomenon. Since the Grammy win I have heard many people refer to Justin Vernon as Bon Iver and Bon Iver as a he and it just is not so.  This is a band and a pretty good one at that.  I met them briefly before the Fox Theater show and had two minutes to take a mediocre backstage group shot, they never turn out very well, but it is a fine memory of a great show and a moment in time before this very talented group blew up.

SF Outside Lands has arrived

In four short years Outside Lands, the music festival in Golden Gate Park has established itself as the premier summer music festival in California, perhaps even the country.  This eclectic mix of music, food, art and human personalities has found its groove and should be a part of the San Francisco scene for many years to come. Following is  small sample of photos shot by Scott Chernis on Saturday from the three day music festival.

The food truck forest

Outside Lands

Christina Perri

Old 97’s

Only in San Francisco A cello playing Wizard in the forest

The Roots

Twin Peaks Stage

Warren Haynes Band

Outside Lands sunset

Muse plays for 60,000+

It all started in New Orleans

New Orleans changed my life. As an 18 year old college freshman, I left home and embarked on an unknown path in a very different city from where I grew up. It took me a few years to begin to understand the complexities and uniqueness of New Orleans, and as the layers were slowly revealed to me I was hooked. I had been a music lover for years and enjoyed live performance from many genres, but when I discovered jazz and the brass bands of New Orleans something inside of me changed. I wanted to get close to this music, I needed to feel it and since I did not play an instrument myself I picked up my camera and attempted to document it. At first the results were less than satisfying as I was still learning my craft, but a few memorable moments in the darkroom seeing that image appear in the developer pushed me to improve my skills and find what I was looking for. This yearning began a process that has continued to this day and I am still searching for the heart and soul of New Orleans. It has been nearly 20 years since I first picked up a camera in New Orleans and while I now live in San Francisco and work as a Bay Area Photographer I have made numerous trips to New Orleans and I continue to photograph the musical culture of the city. After Hurricane Katrina I was able to utilize my vast archive of New Orleans’ images to raise money, through print sales for musicians relief and last year the hit HBO series Treme used one of my brass band photos in the opening credits for the show. All of the pieces of my photography career, my life in New Orleans and now San Francisco came together at a recent SFJAZZ show at Davies Symphony Hall. “A Night in Treme” a traveling tribute to the history of New Orleans music and culture which showcases many of the shows real and acted roles opened a national tour in San Francisco. I was contracted by SFJAZZ to photograph the performance by Kermit Ruffins, Donald Harrison, Big Sam Williams, Dr. Michael White, The Rebirth Brass Band and hosted by Wendell Pierce. It was dream come true. Some of the finest music available today and an enthusiastic crowd appreciating the city that I love.For a look at photos from the show check out and to see more of my work both from New Orleans and beyond

A Night in treme

Wendell Pierce and Clark Peters share the stage at Davies Symphony Hall