One Shot Harris: The Photographs of Charles Teenie Harris

Overview

"From the 1930s to the 1970s, Charles "Teenie" Harris traveled the alleys, workplaces, nightclubs, and streets of his native city of Pittsburgh with a Speed Graphic camera in hand. Working first as a freelancer, then as a staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the preeminent black news weeklies in America, Harris ceaselessly chronicled half a century of African-American life. His work, collected for the first time in this book, offers a rare look into the African-American community during and after the Civil Rights movement."
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Overview

"From the 1930s to the 1970s, Charles "Teenie" Harris traveled the alleys, workplaces, nightclubs, and streets of his native city of Pittsburgh with a Speed Graphic camera in hand. Working first as a freelancer, then as a staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the preeminent black news weeklies in America, Harris ceaselessly chronicled half a century of African-American life. His work, collected for the first time in this book, offers a rare look into the African-American community during and after the Civil Rights movement." "Although he was given the nickname "One Shot" by Mayor David L. Lawrence because of his habit of snapping only one shot when other photographers shot many, Harris's archive is breathtaking in scope, containing more than 80,000 images. Among the most life-affirming photographs are those depicting children, couples, and families. There are also proud images of people at work: a coal miner, an auto mechanic, a barber, a cobbler. American presidents are in the collection, as are Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. Jazz greats inlude Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Louis Armstrong. Although many of Harris's photographs reveal rich lives led with pride, some capture lives in grim circumstances, filled with poverty, crime, violence, and death." Accompanying the illustrations is an essay by cultural critic Stanley Crouch, who weaves together such wide-ranging and disparate topics as American history, baseball, jazz, the growth of the street industry, and African-American culture. Always brilliant and ever surprising, Crouch helps us understand this invaluable collection of work. Historian Deborah Willis provides a biographical outline of the rediscovered artist, now poised on the threshold of prominence in modern American photography. This book offers an important visual history of places and people we have seldom seen, illustrating and revealing the breadth of black urban experience in mid-twentieth century America.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the mid-20th century Pittsburgh in which he lived and worked, portraitist and Weegee-like street photographer Harris (1908-1998) was known as "One Shot," presumably because he rarely made his subjects, most often African-Americans, sit for retakes. This trove of 135 b&w posed and candid shots, presented by New York Daily News editorial columnist and cultural critic Crouch (The All-American Skin Game), "speak[s] of something so far the other side of alienation that all narrow images of these people-or any people-are called to the carpet." Harris photographed, among other subjects and settings, children cooling under a fire hydrant, integrated couples kissing, women icing cakes in a bakery and Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and other stars when they hit town-and in the process left a 40-year record of everyday life for many blacks in Steel City. The crispness of the images, which allows facial expressions to be read as easily as signs held by men that say "Down with Tokenism," is remarkable, as is the composition: unforced configurations of people that recall the most polished Dutch Master paintings. The images in this book were drawn from a collection of 80,000 by Harris kept under wraps by a legal battle. With their publication, a visual door has been opened onto a once-thriving world. As Crouch writes, "When you have finished with these photographs, you, too, will somehow have become a child of the Steel City, even though that era is now gone." (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810932722
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 10.12 (w) x 10.75 (h) x 0.87 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2002

    Significant Documentation Event

    The publication of "One Shot Harris" brings the work of Charles "Teenie" Harris, a great Pittsburgher to the national spotlight. The Harris archive of images, inluding over 80,000 negatives was recently donated to Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art after an intense legal battle, represents perhaps the greatest documentation of the African American urban experience ever assembled. Harris was a photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier - a great African American newspaper - from the 1930s until the 1970s. The images in this work represent that work as well as images from his personal and studio work. Its significance is not only in its volume and longevity of coverage, but also the beauty of the work itself. His photographs cover great social events, patriotic parades and images of Presidents campaigning, as well as the everyday life of the often nameless residents of the Hill. They include scenes of dancing and drinking in bars and clubs, but also some of poverty and civil unrest - protests against discrimination.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2009

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