Charles 'Teenie' Harris to get large-scale exhibition
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Charles "Teenie" Harris, whose photographs of Pittsburgh's Hill District provide compelling documentation of African-American life in the mid-20th century, will have his first large-scale exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art this fall, thanks to a new National Endowment for the Humanities grant.
"Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story" will open Oct. 29 and be on view until April 8, 2012, before going on tour to at least two other cities: Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta, with other venues still to be announced.
The $250,000 NEH grant, announced Wednesday, will help fund the first retrospective "based on his complete life's work," said Louise Lippincott, curator of fine arts at the Carnegie Museum.
As a staff and freelance photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, the nation's most prominent black newsweekly, Mr. Harris produced nearly 80,000 images from the 1930s to the 1970s. Ms. Lippincott noted that when she came to Pittsburgh 20 years ago, "He was famous here, people knew his work and cared about him, but he had very little reputation outside of the city."
That changed in part due to successful legal efforts by Mr. Harris' family to gain control of the photographer's negatives after they were purchased for a pittance by a Hill District businessman in 1986 from the destitute photographer.
After a federal court awarded the Harris family control over his images in 2001, the Carnegie Museum of Art purchased the entire photo archive, and staffers -- with guidance by an advisory committee of African-American scholars and educators -- have been combing through the images to title and date them all.
The exhibition will focus on 1,000 of Mr. Harris' most iconic images. The museum is also collaborating with the University of Pittsburgh Press on an illustrated volume that will offer new and unpublished scholarship about Mr. Harris and his work.
First Published May 20, 2011 12:00 am