Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris was one of Pittsburgh’s most influential photographers of the 20th century. Being a photographer for the ‘Pittsburgh Courier’ he strolled the streets of Pittsburgh and took thousands of pictures of the minority community. He was also known as “One Shot” because he hardly ever made his subjects take retakes. His subjects ranged from famous figures like, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Louis Armstrong to the lives of the working class. Being a photographer that caught the essence of life in Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Museum proudly purchased around sixty thousand negatives. For the last ten years, the Carnegie Museum focused on researching and collecting the famous photographers negatives, and they recently opened their collection to the public. It educated us of Teenie Harris’ life as a photographer and of that time period. The Carnegie Museum showed that they were still collecting data and had an interest in the communities help in collecting more information of the photos and of that time period.
On the second floor of the Carnegie Museum, in the Heinz Galleries, the exhibition “Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story” will be exhibited from October 29, 2011- through April 7, 2012. This exhibition picked five different ways to portray 987 pictures, that were taken by Teenie Harris. The first room was clean and crisp with white walls, and had seven different categories of slideshows. The Categories: Gatherings, At home, Words&Signs, Crossroads, Urban Landscapes, Fall of Crawford Grill and Style. The slideshows showed an image for around ten seconds, but they were timed so that there was a playful beat playing back and forth from the different categories. It went very well with a upbeat jazz playing in the background by McG Jazz which was made particularly for this exhibition. Sitting in the middle of this room and watching the different slideshows almost gave it a feeling of the celebration of our proud Pittsburghian artist Teenie.
The next room seemed to be more educational with a chronological timeline of Teenie’s Photos all along the walls, and the archive computers lined up in the middle of the room. On the tables were audio headsets, a small directory, and numbers one could call through their cell phones for more information of the photos. Going around the room, one could really tell that Harris was an artist who lived through photography, instead of it being just a day job. The photos captured snapshots of the life, that were not posed or photoshopped. The essence of that time was captured perfectly.
The last room had photos of Teenie and excerpts of people explaining Teenie. There was also a video in a separate room where a slideshow of Teenie Harris’ photos were overlaid with the voices of relatives, friends and people who knew Teenie. They informed the audience of his amazing skills as a photographer and how he enhanced their lives.
The exhibition seemed to be a modern day shrine of the influential Charles Teenie Harris. It celebrated his amazing photographs, but also the life of that time. It educated us of our history through the eyes of an artist. The snapshots of parties, and riots, and all the events, in that time period makes us imagine how the city we live used to be. Because the photographs are so honest, it makes the viewer imagine the subjects and make their own narratives through the photo. Looking through the 987 photos immersed me into this time and made me feel like I was apart of this time period.
“California Newsreel – ONE SHOT: THE LIFE AND WORK OF TEENIE HARRIS.” California Newsreel – Film and Video for Social Change Since 1968. 2001. Web. 12 Nov. 2011. <http://newsreel.org/video/ONE-SHOT-TEENIE-HARRIS>.
“Charles “Teenie” Harris.” PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 12 Nov. 2011. <http://www.pbs.org/blackpress/film/transcripts/harris.html>.
Historic Pittsburgh. Web. 12 Nov. 2011.
Carnegie Museum of Art. Web. 12 Nov. 2011. <http://www.cmoa.org/searchcollections/listview.aspx?Search=1%7C%7C0%7C0%7C%7C0%7C%7CTrue%7CFalse%7CTrue&Page=1&IPP=192&sb=>.
“Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story.” Carnegie Museum of Art. Web. 12 Nov. 2011. <http://web.cmoa.org/?page_id=327>.
“Documenting Our Past: The Teenie Harris Archive.” Carnegie Museum of Art. Web. 12 Nov. 2011. <http://www.cmoa.org/teenie/intro.asp>.