I picked up a camera for the first time while attending Tulane University in New Orleans. I immediately began photographing musicians in an effort to understand the incredible music I was hearing in the streets and clubs of the city. I am not a musician, never had a lesson, but the power of music, the transformative energy of a live performance is something that I have appreciated for many years. ”Playing” my camera allowed me access and gave me a deeper connection to what I was witnessing all around me. While my first attempts at documenting jazz in New Orleans were filled with very mixed results, I kept shooting.
A beautiful image hiding on a proof sheet, a day in the darkroom or a published photo; these small moments encouraged me to continue the work. Meeting Marcus Shelby in 1997 and photographing him for the North Beach Jazz Festival was one of those “I might be on the right path” moments. In 2001, Marcus was about to start a residency at Intersection for the Arts with a “Meet the Composer” grant. Kevin B. Chen, program director, invited me to photograph the concert and display some earlier photos of Marcus in the upstairs gallery.
That concert in July of 2001 began what I can only describe as the most rewarding artistic collaboration of my career. Kevin is a programming savant, offering a dynamic mix of music and introducing San Francisco jazz fans to a vast treasure trove of local talent. Shooting black and white film and making prints the old fashioned way, I jumped right in.
For me the first Tuesday of the month was like stepping back in time as I channeled my heroes of the jazz photography craft and began to create my own vision. The space at 446 Valencia allowed me to work with few limitations and the community of musicians and fans of the music welcomed me with open arms. Barriers that exist at most venues were not in place at Intersection, and I was free to make pictures.
As the jazz series evolved and eventually switched locations, taking up residence at the de Young Museum, the atmosphere was different; but the music remained true to its roots. A diverse group of talented musicians played with passion and in many instances created music inspired by works of art in the de Young’s permanent collection. The de Young Museum public concert series, under the spirited direction of program coordinator, Renee Baldocchi, infused the jazz series with renewed purpose. This commitment to bring jazz to the people of San Francisco can continue into future at Intersection’s new location at Mission and 5th.
This book contains 110 photographs taken between 2001 and 2011. All of the photos from 446 Valencia were shot on black and white film, while the majority of the images from the de Young were shot with a digital camera. I believe jazz has always been best captured by black and white photography. The photos in this book, shot on film or digitally, are inspired by classic images from jazz history.
Scott Chernis is a Bay Area photographer. His vast body of work over the past 15 years recently led to an assignment covering president Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Honolulu, Hawaii during the APEC Conference. Scott first picked up a camera in New Orleans while attending Tulane University. What began as a passion for jazz and the music and culture that makes New Orleans unique, has evolved into a career, which attempts to engage all subject matter. While shooting jazz for festivals, magazines and CD projects from his home base in San Francisco, Scott continues to return to New Orleans to document the rich musical traditions of that city. His portraiture encompasses a wide spectrum of the population, from artists to CEO’s and has appeared in magazines, advertisements and websites around the world. With a wide range of clients, from alternative energy brokers to record labels, Universities and fortune 500 companies, Scott will put a piece of himself into ev