Having started life as a semi-professional athlete, it wasn’t until he bought his first camera that he found his true profession. He went on to have the most expansive record of African American urban culture known today and at the time of his death, he had taken nearly 80,000 photos. After narrowing it down to 987 images, this exhibition shows the “most beautiful, appealing, and historically significant images” – Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story
He was known as ‘One Shot Harris’. Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris earned the nickname because he often captured his most moving images in his first take. The late photographer’s archive of nearly 80,000 is said to be the most expansive record of African American urban culture known today. Now, fourteen years after his death, Mr. Harris’ work is being lauded in a retrospective exhibit, featuring rarely-seen images of Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong, and other enduring names.
Curators at the Carnegie Museum of Art narrowed his collection to 987 of the ‘most beautiful, appealing, and historically significant images’ taken at the height of Mr. Harris’ career. After ten years of research into the archive, Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story, is put on display.
Photos of baseball star Jackie Robinson and leaders such as John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. are featured among the most well-known names. Duke Ellington, pictured signing autographs through a crowd, Lena Horne dancing with William ‘Woogie’ Harris, Josephine Baker accepting a Hill City membership card, big bands, dancing girls, and carnivals are featured in the expansive collection.
The first gallery features ‘immersive life-sized projections combined with a newly-commissioned jazz soundtrack’, according to the museum. In the next hangs a chronology of Mr. Harris’ selected 987 photographs – and first-person narratives, including those from Harris’ family, subjects, and colleagues to guide viewers through the tour. The final section of the exhibition is dedicated to an in-depth evaluation of Harris as an artist.
Born in 1908 in Pittsburgh, Mr. Harris began his career as a semi-professional athlete, but after buying his first camera, found his niche, and he turned to photography in the 1930s. Initially, he specialized in glamor portraits, and eventually opened his own photography studio. He turned to news years later, and began freelancing in 1941 for the Pittsburgh Courier – the leading African American newspaper at the time. He became a widely-respected photojournalist before he retired in 1975, capturing on camera a colorful chronicle of the black urban community during the Jim Crow and civil rights eras now on display.
Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story will run through April 7, 2012.
A reduced-scale version of the exhibition will travel to the Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago (February 4 to June 4 2012); the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (August 7 to October 28, 2012); and the Robert Woodruff Library at the Atlanta University Center (January 20–April 13, 2013).
Carnegie Museum of Art
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-4080
Tuesday to Saturday: 10am to 5pm
Thursday: 10am to 8pm
Sunday: noon to 5pm
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