“How the Other Half Lived” Teenie Harris documents Pittsburgh

Charles "Teenie" Harris, holding camera and standing on sidewalk, (circa 1938). Carnegie Museum of Art

“EVERY grand city—and Pittsburgh was indeed once grand—should have a photographer like Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris (1908-1998). Many 20th-century photographers seized on Pittsburgh as a metaphor for the ravages of industry and the paradoxes of American post-war optimism and mass-production. Images of smokestacks, scruffy labourers and industrial vistas contributed to ‘the popular image of Pittsburgh as a rough, tough, hard-working city of few amenities and pleasures,’ writes Alan Trachtenberg, a historian of American photography at Yale.”

“How the Other Half Lived”

By Y.F.

Published by The Economist, April 30th 2012

Sarah Vaughan with Frank Bolden (1950) Photograph by Charles “Teenie” Harris, Carnegie Museum of Art

Lena Horne in dressing room at Stanley Theatre, (circa 1944) Photograph by Charles “Teenie” Harris, Carnegie Museum of Art

“In their ambition to cast Pittsburgh as steel mills with human parts, most photographers overlooked the more discrete elements of Pittsburgh’s communities. Harris filled in these gaps with pictures of life as it was actually lived. His Pittsburgh is humane and warm-blooded, not merely a visual proxy for the modern human condition. His subjects, chronicled over half a century, are individuals and communities in and around Pittsburgh’s predominantly black Hill District, where he was born and raised. The result is a body of work that poignantly reflects the beauties and tensions of the time.”

Student crossing guard holding back a group of children (1947) Photo by Charles “Teenie” Harris, Carnegie Museum of Art

“In 1941 the Pittsburgh Courier, the nation’s top black newspaper, hired Harris as its first staff photographer, confirming his role as the chronicler of the Hill and of black America more generally, given the paper’s national readership. In the 1960s and 70s, as the civil-rights movement and push for real integration took hold, his photos began documenting the seamier side of segregation, the disparity between white and black America. Taken together, Harris’s images offer an intimate survey of black urban America over much of the 20th century.”

"Black Monday" demonstration (1969) Photograph by Charles "Teenie" Harris, Carnegie Museum of Art

To view the complete article from The Economist, visit http://econ.st/IBm1Qk .

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