We’re on a photo kick this week!
Know these ladies?
Pittsburgh owes much of its visual history to photographer Teenie Harris. I was going to attempt to capture the spirit of Mr. Harris in this post, but this letter from Larry Associate Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh describes the project best:
“Teenie Harris’ photographs are unsurpassed in the range of subjects they portray and for their ability to evoke the spirit of an era and to display the humanity of a people. Harris’ 40-year career with the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the largest and most influential Black newspapers in the country, began as the nation emerged from the Depression and ended with the Civil Rights Movement. Numbering upwards of 80,000 images, this archive represents the largest single collection of photographic images of any Black community in the United StatesÃ¢â‚¬â€?or the world, for that matter.
“Harris’ photographs are finally receiving the recognition they deserve, nationally and internationally. They have been extolled by The New York Times, exhibited in a number of venues, and made the subject of a recent book and exhibition. Harris’ photographs are now taking their place alongside those of such eminent photographers as James VanDerZee of New York City’s Harlem. But the Teenie Harris collection surpasses that of any other African American photographer in its breadth and in its rich documentation of the life and community spirit of Black urban America. In the long run, his photographs may cause Pittsburgh’s Hill District to join New York City’s Harlem in forming our view of urban Black life from the 1930s to the 1960s.”
(Cue: NOW HERE IS THE REALLY AMAZING PART!)
“On these pages we present a sampling of images from the Harris collection. Many of the images have not been identified, and as caretakers of the archive, we are seeking your assistance in discovering and preserving information about Harris and his photographs.
“This electronic image gallery offers an on-going forum for the presentation of Harris’ work. Each month an additional 100 images will be added to the site until all 3600 images are publicly accessible. Visitors can comment on the images, view the comments of others, and e-mail images to increase participation in this documentary project.
“These photographs provide you, the viewer, with a unique opportunity to enhance this visual documentation of Pittsburgh’s history. You can do this by helping to identify the people, places, and events in the photos, by telling the “story behind the picture,” by sharing the memories these photos elicit. In doing so, you, the viewer, can help magnify their power and significance as a vivid historical record of the 20th-century Black experience in Pittsburgh.”
What’s so beautiful is that you can see all the memories and comments on each photograph; some comments, such as these, are especially moving and powerful.
You can see the full list of comments here.
In 2008, the Carnegie Museum of Art plans to present Harris photographs in a major exhibition and publication, followed by a national tour.