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Carnegie Museums


Forum Gallery, July 5- November 16, 2003

“He liked people, and they liked him,” says Dr. Laurence A. Glasco, speaking of photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris. “He was a congenial, outgoing, friendly fellow, had a very relaxed way, and people just liked to have their picture taken by him.” Perhaps it was that friendliness that enabled Harris to compile what Glasco, associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, calls “the largest single body of photographic visual evidence and documentation of any black community in the United States, and probably the world.”





“Harris took photographs of the middle class and the blue collar— not just famous people, but
ordinary subjects.”

– Laurence Glasco

Documenting Our Past:
The Teenie Harris Archive Project

Charles "Teenie" Harris

The public will have an opportunity to see the photographs—and make a contribution to the historical record they represent—when part one of the Teenie Harris Archive Project opens. “Our goal is to show as many unpublished photographs as we can, and invite the public in to tell us what they are about, to help identify the people, places, and events they represent, and to tell us what memories the photographs trigger,” explains Louise Lippincott, the museum’s curator of fine arts.

In 2001, Carnegie Museum of Art acquired the Harris archive after the Harris family’s successful suit against a private dealer to gain control of the photographic negatives. The museum had acquired 4,500 prints in 1997, but Harris, who never threw a negative away, took approximately 100,000 photographs during his career. The recent acquisition contains more than 80,000 of those negatives, many of which are set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. “The community has the information we need to catalogue the photographs,” says Lippincott. “The best way for us to get the information is to make the photographs available, and to listen to what people have to tell us.”

The Performers


The museum is working with a Teenie Harris Advisory Committee on the enormous task of identifying the photographs. To that end, work prints (prints not made by Harris) and hundreds of photocopies of photographs in binders will be on view so visitors can see what the pictures are and share that information with the museum. This is a pilot project, Lippincott explains, with different strategies in place to capture the information. “We want to see what works, and how much information we can get. It will have a huge influence on how we manage the collection.”

“ I think we’ll learn a lot,” says Glasco, who is a member of the advisory committee. Glasco recounts a recent talk he gave in Baldwin on the Harris archive, “and it was surprising how many people, white as well as black, lived on the Hill and had known Harris or their family had known him. It was clear that the photos do evoke memories and people do have stories to tell.”

Glasco says the information will not only provide a major contribution to scholarship, but it will also help bring the community together. “People have forgotten the glory days of the Hill,” he says. “The Hill was a highly integrated neighborhood. Until 1930, it was mostly White, with many Italians and Jews, but also Chinese, Syrians, Lebanese, Greeks, Irish, Poles, Germans. There were all sorts of ethnic groups there.

“If it is made clear to them, these people will come and help contribute
to the fuller history of the Hill, which we’ve forgotten. These pictures will
provide a renewed sense of place.”

Harris, with no formal training, began his career as a freelance photographer, and then worked as principal photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier from 1936 through the mid-1970s. At that time, the Courier was one of the country’s most influential black newspapers with four national editions, as well as editions for Africa, the West Indies, and the Philippines.

Baseball Player



It was Mayor David L. Lawrence who first gave Harris the nickname “One Shot” for his tendency to snap only one shot of a scene and then move on. A true photojournalist, more interested in the stories the pictures told than technical prowess, he nevertheless had an instinctive eye for a picture and an innate ability to take it at just the right time.

As his son Charles A. Harris, wrote, “Dad believed in brevity. He felt that more people should concentrate on giving shorter answers and writing shorter speeches. When Dad answered a question he was succinct. You knew exactly where he stood; there would be no sugar coating in his answers. This trait carried over into his work.”

“He was a wonderful photographer,” says Lippincott. “Putting aside
subject matter, the way he composed a scene, the way he represented people, make these images wonderful in their own right.”

Subject matter, however, is part of what makes these pictures so valuable. “The more famous black photographers were mainly studio photographers,” explains Glasco. “They didn’t take that many photographs out on the street, and they had a more middle class audience. Harris took photographs of the middle class and blue collar—not just famous people, but ordinary subjects. For example, he would shoot the baseball players, but also the fans in the stadium. . . . He was interested in capturing just people.”

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Recent Acquisition:
An Inner Dialog with Frida Kahlo

An Inner Dialogue with Frida Kahlo (Gift 2), 2001, by Yasumasu Morimura, c-print; ed. 6/10. Gift of Pamela Z. Bryan.



With the purchase of An Inner Dialog with Frida Kahlo, the Museum of Art gains a work by one of the most important voices of the 1980s in photography in Japan, says curator of contemporary art Laura Hoptman. Yasumasu Morimura, born in 1951, uses digital techniques to interpose himself into famous works of art or famous figures in cinema. Liza Minelli, Marilyn Monroe, even the Mona Lisa herself, are all transformed by Morimura into new images that can be both disturbing and amusing. Inspired by high art as well as the commercial, Morimura piles artifice onto artifice, drawing on the work of Cindy Sherman and Mariko Mori, among others.

In the series “An Inner Dialogue with Frida Kahlo,” Morimura assumes the persona of the artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), a Mexican painter well known for striking self-portraits that portrayed the love, pain, sickness, and joy of
her tumultuous life. This practice of replacing the subject’s face with his own is conceptually rooted in both the Japanese Kabuki theater tradition, where male actors play female parts, and in postmodern appropriation, where artists borrow imagery from diverse sources to comment upon the power of images themselves. Morimura’s near-perfect photographic copy of Kahlo’s painting extends the transformation further swapping elements from her original composition for those of Japanese origin, such as the hana kanzashi, Japanese flowered hairpins that he has substituted for the flowers in Kahlo’s hair. The resulting photographic work allows Morimura to pay subversive homage to Kahlo, whose own life and art parallel the “beautiful commotion” that Morimura seeks in his own work.

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Copyright (c) 2003 CARNEGIE magazine. All rights reserved.