L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Representing - portraits of African American women by Charles “Teenie” Harris, Pittsburgh, circa 1940s-50s

Charles “Teenie” Harris photographed Pittsburgh’s African American community for forty years, from circa 1935 to circa 1975. His archive of nearly 80,000 images is one of the most detailed and intimate records of the black urban experience known today, and constitutes arguably the largest and most complete photographic documentation of a minority community in the United States.


Self-portrait, circa 1940.

Charles "Teenie" Harris (2 July 1908, Pittsburgh - 12 June 1998, Pittsburgh), African-American photographer. Born the son of hotel owners in the city's Hill District, early in the 1930s he purchased his first camera and opened a photography studio. He freelanced for the Washington, D.C. news picture magazine, Flash!, and for forty years he chronicled life in the black neighborhoods of the city for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of America's oldest black newspapers. He was nicknamed "One Shot" because he rarely made his subjects sit for retakes. Unlike his more celebrated African-American contemporaries, such as James Van Der Zee or Gordon Parks, Harris was a working-class photographer tethered to a job with a circumscribed beat. In addition to his photo essays of daily life in the city, he captured many celebrities who visited Pittsburgh. Among those were Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan, Muhammad Ali, Eleanor Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, but his work was rarely seen outside of Pittsburgh until after his death. In 1986, he licensed his collection of photographs to a local entrepreneur, Dennis Morgan, and subsequently these so-called "Morgan prints" were sold at street fairs in Pittsburgh. Harris filed a lawsuit in 1998 for unpaid royalties and the return of his collection. He won the case posthumously, and the Carnegie Museum of Art purchased the collection from the Harris estate in 2001. Harris died at the age of eighty-nine and is buried in Pittsburgh's Homewood Cemetery