An exhibit hosting over 1,000 photographs in honor of Charles “Teenie” Harris was organized by the Carnegie Museum of Art. According to the Associated Press, the works will be showcased at the museum until next April and then, the collection will travel through Chicago, Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta.
Charles “Teenie” Harris opted to fight for African-Americans’ rights using nothing but his camera. He accomplished his mission by objectively reproducing the essence of the African-American culture in the 20th century.
Harris worked for more than 40 years as a lead photographer at the Pittsburgh Courier. He took 80,000 pictures of various people during this period managing to immortalize even important public figures, such as sports stars and presidents.
People who have studied Harris’ work have nothing but good words to say about him. Stanley Nelson, an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and MacArthur genius grant winner told the press that the images captured by the Pittsburg photographer look as if they are about to come alive. In Nelson’s opinion, Teenie managed to capture his subjects without giving the impression that he was spying on the community like most photographers were doing back then.
The fact that he was working for Pittsburgh Courier gave Harris the opportunity to come across important rich people. Among the many celebrities he immortalized were Richard Nixon, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy as well as musicians like Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington. Unlike other photographers, Harris was not impressed by celebrities; on the contrary, he would treat them like regular persons and this comes out in his pictures.
Laurence Glasco, a professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, explained that the Courier was one of the best black national papers. Although the publication favored the African –American population, Charles remained objective portraying the reality just the way it was. He would gladly illustrate positive examples to counteract the negative stereotypes in the white press, but he never sugarcoated anything.
Many of his works are revolutionizing because they represent a reality that most photographers wanted to ignore. Charles illustrated African – American soldiers returning home from World War II as well as cross-dressing males in order to help them gain equal rights.