City-County Building showcases Charles "Teenie" Harris with The Man Behind the Lens | Visual Art | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

City-County Building showcases Charles "Teenie" Harris with The Man Behind the Lens

click to enlarge City-County Building showcases Charles "Teenie" Harris with The Man Behind the Lens
CP Photo: Dani Janae
Charles "Teenie" Harris Exhibit Downtown
Pittsburgh has a number of celebrated Black artists who have come up in this city. Two names that always get mentioned are playwright August Wilson and photographer Charles "Teenie" Harris. This month, guests at the City-County Building in Downtown Pittsburgh will get to appreciate Harris' legacy with an exhibit in the grand lobby.

Now on display, Teenie Harris: The Man Behind the Lens features over 50 photographs, examples of Harris’ prototype cameras, books, and other memorabilia. The show, which is part of the city of Pittsburgh’s Black History Month celebration, also includes an online photo gallery.

The camera and photography pieces displayed are on loan from Bernie's Photo Center and Photo Antiquities, and the city partnered on the exhibit with the Carnegie Museum of Art. This includes interviews with Charlene Foggie-Barnett, the Teenie Harris Community Archivist at CMOA, being made available on the City of Pittsburgh website.


“Working in partnership with the Teenie Harris Archive at Carnegie Museum of Art, the City’s Black History Month celebration will focus on the life of this extraordinary man,” says Brian Katze, manager of the City of Pittsburgh Office of Special Events, in a press release. “We’re excited to celebrate the accomplishments of a lifelong Pittsburgher so proficient at his craft that he was referred to as ‘One Shot’ for his ability to take the perfect photo in a single exposure.”

From 1935 to 1975, Harris worked as a photographer for The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the nation's most important Black newspapers, documenting the lives of Black people in the city. A press release says the paper, along with Harris' work, created an "unparalleled chronicle of Black American life, culture and history during the mid-twentieth century."

The City-County Building exhibition is laid out in the hall just beyond the building's doors. As you walk down the hall, images of Harris' work are to your left and right, and there are also installs down the middle of the hall that showcase his equipment and other artifacts. Negatives and other images are featured in each display, allowing viewers to see the creative process for photographic images.
click to enlarge City-County Building showcases Charles "Teenie" Harris with The Man Behind the Lens  (3)
CP Photo: Dani Janae
Harris was prolific, and with over 70,000 images in his archive, he explored the Black experience through his lens and is highly regarded for his work to this day. With photographs capturing everything from everyday life for Black folks to images of the Civil Rights Movement, Harris' work is incredibly important in the city and beyond.

Harris chronicled "countless celebrities, athletes and civil rights leaders throughout his illustrious career, he also focused his lens on documenting the daily life of African Americans at churches, civic events, barbershops, and Little League games."


Besides this temporary exhibition, his archive is part of a permanent, state-of-the-art CMOA exhibition, which includes an interactive screen that allows viewers to zoom in on 60,000 images. The archive is available to view online when you visit the museum's website.

Black art always gets a boost when Black History Month rolls around, but it is important to pay attention to and give resources to living Black artists working today, and to admire the work of artists of the past year-round.

Teenie Harris: The Man Behind the Lens. Continues through February. City-County Building, 414 Grant St., Downtown. Free. pittsburghpa.gov/events/black-history

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