Thursday, April 5, 2012
Teenie Harris: Photographer — An American Story closes on Sat., April 7, at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
It's a vast show, featuring nearly 1,000 images shot by the iconic, Hill District-based photographer, most of them for the Pittsburgh Courier, and most in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. (On this page is a picture of Harris, by an unknown photographer circa 1938, titled “Charles ‘Teenie' Harris, holding camera and standing on sidewalk,” © 2006 Carnegie Museum of Art).
And it's imaginatively presented, the images viewable as traditional prints (organized chronologically), as thematic slideshows with an original jazz soundtrack, and interactively, on computer screens.
One way visitors are meant to use the latter, especially, is as a research tool. In fact, on my visit last Saturday, I overheard people at a computer screen discussing folks they knew in one of the pictures Harris shot decades ago.
A bigger screen in a space in the rear of the gallery runs short videos exploring different aspects of Harris' work.
So the exhibit can be very personal, or it can serve as a window into the history of Pittsburgh, of black America and of other cultural byways, from fashion to jazz and sports.
Another nice touch: a display case featuring a big stack of the boxes in which Harris stored some of his tens of thousands of negatives. (Kodak and Agfa were among his film preferences.)
As Chris Potter points out in his review of the show for CP, Harris' images are so popular that there will be plenty more chances to see them, probably in the not too distant future.
Still, you're unlikely to see a show of this magnitude about Harris anytime soon. Leave at least 90 minutes to take it in.