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.

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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.

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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 http://www.scottchernis.com/data/web/Dave_Chappelle_Gallery/index.html

For more on Scott Chernis Photography check out http://www.scottchernis.com

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Collecting URLs -No More Tear Sheets

I am not an old photographer, but I have been shooting long enough to have a file cabinet full of film and a few storage boxes filled with magazines, postcards, brochures and many other incarnations of printed materials.  I can honestly say, these “tear sheets” that I have collected over the years are a nuisance.  They take up space, they are chaotically filed and they are beginning to show wear from years of neglect in my garage.  I have considered going through the boxes and scanning the documents or individual magazine pages to store them on a hard drive and recycle the boxes as well as my print legacy, but I can’t seem to follow through with this personal threat.  Instead my old “tear sheets” collect dust in my garage and I collect URLs for all of my current and likely my future projects. Occasionally I will see a printed piece with my photos and magazines still publish stories with pictures, but more and more of my work and visual content in general ends up online.  A recent story in the magazine Fast Company about Energy Recovery, Inc., a company I  have been working with for the past year made me think about this process in a new way.  While more people will have access to my photos if they are published online, I still feel a sense of nostalgia for the printed image.

http://www.fastcoexist.com/1681490/our-pipes-are-full-of-power-that-were-wasting

This Jazz Times piece covering the opening of the SFJAZZ Center features 10 of my photos http://jazztimes.com/articles/71542-sfjazz-center-is-open-for-business

Would it have been better to see 2 small photos in the print version?

Today the majority of my work is destined for the web.  Every business needs a website and every website needs photos.  I am happy to oblige and fill webpages with my photography.

If only I could find thetime to update my own website http://www.scottchernis.com/

Here is a sample of recent shoots for new website designs

http://www.microprobe.com/?v=true

http://www.pacificfertilitycenter.com/fertility-specialists/our-fertility-specialists

http://www.hsf.net/

http://www.energyrecovery.com/

http://www.4cd.edu/about/committees/measure_a/annualreports/2012%20Annual%20Report%20to%20the%20Community%20(English).pdf

The clear space saving benefit of digital publication is worth noting.  The exponential reach of the web published piece is irrefutable but I do like to see a poster or billboard every once in awhile.  Perhaps my recently published book “10 Years With Intersection The Jazz Series” will satisfy this need for the short term, although the press release is only viewable online

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/2/prweb10334715.htm

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.

http://www.scottchernis.com

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Traveling the World with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (without leaving Honolulu)

Dedicated photojournalists log countless hours in airports and hotels, while documenting the often mundane details of the world’s leaders.  This is not my job description.  On a recent assignment for The Department of State, covering APEC Leaders’ Week in Hawaii, I got a glimpse into what it would be like to work in this manner.  I was assigned to cover Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for three days while she held bi-lateral meetings, gave speeches, hosted dinners and attended many other events.  In fact I got to travel around the world with The Secretary of State without leaving Honolulu.  Our first stop was the East West Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii, where Secretary Clinton met with Pacific Island Country Leaders and gave a speech to a large and enthusiastic crowd.  It was en route to this location in the motorcade, complete with secret service and a police escort,  that I realized this job was unlike any other I had done before.

Secretary Clinton at East West Center

The rest of the day was consumed with Bi-Lateral meetings with the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Japan, China and The President of Vietnam.  Shooting these meetings is fast and a bit unrewarding as the press is allowed in at the top of the meeting for a quick handshake photo-op and out the door we go.

Bi-Lateral meetings with Australia, China, Japan and Vietnam

From the final meeting with the president of Japan we traveled to Shangri-la, the mansion built by Doris Duke to house and preserve her Islamic Art Collection.  A dinner reception was being held for trade ministers from APEC economies.

Secretary Clinton receives a private tour of the art collection at Shangri-la

The next day we got to work early and spent the day in meetings, in a press conference, at the CEO Summit and finally back at Shangri-la for another dinner, this time with The Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo.  The dinner was prepared by Iron Chef Morimoto.

The Foreign Ministers Breakfast at The hawaii Convention Center

Secretary Clinton at The CEO Summit

Back at Shangri-la with Iron Chef Morimoto and The Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo

The final day in my 3 day assignment with Secretary Clinton was a long and slow one spent primarily waiting around the hotel for my photo-op.  Only 4 meetings were held and that means I had a total of less than ten minutes of actual photography work in a day that began at 8:00 and ended at 6:00.  It was all worth it though, with a priceless moment during the last meeting with the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.  The sun was setting so the shot was at least a bit interesting when out of nowhere comes a man running, presumably on his way to the luau complete with torch.  The security was nowhere to be seen.

www.scottchernis.com

Putting my Political Science Degree to Work

When I received the call from The State Department this past summer regarding APEC 2011, an economic summit being held in San Francisco in September I did not know what to expect.  As a photographer my name gets passed around and I am often asked to submit proposals for a variety of projects.  This one however was different than anything I had done before, but I felt like it was the right job for me.  As a college freshman at Tulane University I signed up as a Political Science major.  I always enjoyed politics and had no idea what else I should study so I went with it.  Once in New Orleans my focus quickly shifted outside of the classroom and I began to explore and study the city I was living in.  Eventually I took a photography class and the rest as they say is history.  My love for music and deep respect for the traditions of New Orleans led me to jazz and for the past 15 years I have been shooting this truly American art form.  Jazz photography has been the thread that keeps me tethered to my passion and while I shoot a wide range of subject matter it is jazz that I always come back to.

When I received word that Scott Chernis Photography had been chosen as the APEC 2011 official photographer I knew it was going to be a great project to work on.  I have come full circle and one week in with one week to go, the APEC 2011 Senior Officials Meeting in San Francisco has been an experience like no other.  From the opening remarks by California Governor Jerry Brown to the two days of meetings chaired by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood I have been immersed in the functions of international politics like never before in my life.  I sat in on Bilateral meetings with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and have created countless images of foreign dignitaries from around the Asian Pacific Region.  The week culminated with an address by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at the Women and The Economy Summit, which is being held in conjunction with APEC2011.

The days have been long and the pace has been fast, but the experience has been amazing and I am looking forward to shooting at this level again in the future.  It has been inspiring to see so many committed, bright, hard working people come together to pull off an event of this magnitude.  Week two began today.

To see more work from Scott Chernis visit http://www.scottchernis.com

www.scottchernis.com

24 hours in the life of photographer Scott Chernis

Everyday in the life of a freelance anything is a bit different than the one before or after it.  Photography is one of those jobs that does not follow a steady rhythm, at least not my line of work.  Take a recent 24 hour period as an example that most likely will be repeated in the future with a completely different rhythm and result.  Drinking scotch and shooting out the window with renowned photojournalist Rick Friedman www.rickfriedman.com at the Starlight Room on the top floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in downtown San Francisco is a good way to start any evening. From there I walked three blocks to the Hotel Nikko where I was to meet Kim Nalley www.kimnalley.com who has taken up a five week residency at the Rrazz Room playing a 5 night a week tribute to Nina Simone. She requested me to come by and shoot the band. After a stellar set of music I met up with her guitarist Greg Skaff in from New York to play the gig who also needed some updated photography for himself. Around 11:00 we were atop the Ellis/O’Farrell garage setting up for a portrait. The lights of the Palomar Hotel framed the back drop as the city wound down another day and I finally headed home for a short rest. Thursday morning had me scrambling about on five hours of sleep to get the kids to camp, and my equipment packed for a three shoot day. Intersection for the Arts www.theintersection.org recently opened their latest gallery installation “Sweet Beans and Rice: Investigating a Chino-Latino Future”. As I have been doing for years I was hired to document the gallery. These shoots are some of my favorite moments when I get to spend a couple of hours alone in a gallery with incredible art and make pictures. Upon completion of shoot number one I headed across town to another rooftop, this time in Chinatown, where I was to meet a new client, with a new business and a need for headshots. Setting up lights in the Stockton tunnel and creating a striking portrait was a challenge and an experience. I had no idea so many people walked through that tunnel and the sidewalk is quite narrow. With the sun going down on another San francisco day I had just enough time to eat a bit of dinner with the family before heading south to the campus of Stanford University and the Stanford Jazz Workshop. In it’s 40th year the SJW www.stanfordjazz.org puts on 30+ shows and holds three separate weeks of Jazz Camp each summer on the Stanford University Campus. This night was legendary Brazilian singer-songwriter and guitarist Milton Nacimento and I was shooting for the festival as I have done for the past eleven years. A great performance and a perfect end to a busy 24 hours in the life of Scott Chernis Photography.
www.scottchernis.com