Teenie Harris Archive
If I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908–1998) was the preeminent photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the nation’s prominent black newspapers photographing Pittsburgh’s historic African American community from 1935 to 1975. His archive of over 70,000 images is one of the most detailed and intimate records of the black urban experience known today.
The Teenie Harris Archive at Carnegie Museum of Art is a richly detailed chronicle ranging from World War II to the Civil Rights movement, entertainers to local heroes, sports to churches, and any other hallmark of everyday family life.
Thanks to the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, CMOA has digitized nearly 60,000 of Harris’ negatives, and the collection is now available online!
Artist at Work
Learn more about the life and work of Charles “Teenie” Harris.
Teenie Harris, Photographer: Artist at Work
More About the Collection
This collection provides us with an epic sense of life, which is to say that a civilization and how it worked is laid out before us.
Teenie Harris Negatives
The Teenie Harris Archive consists primarily of photographic negatives. As a whole, the collection consists of over 70,000 negatives (58,970 of which are 4×5–inch black-and-white negatives; 14,350 are black-and-white negatives in medium formats estimated between 1965 and the 1980s; and 454 are nitrate negatives in varying sizes that seem to date from the late 1910s to early 1940s). Additionally, the collection contains an undetermined number of 35mm black-and-white and color negatives that have yet to be cataloged and approximately 5,000 feet of 16mm motion picture film, featuring original Harris footage spliced with commercial newsreel and cartoon footage, most from the 1940s. Finally, CMOA maintains 560-lifetime gelatin silver prints of Harris images, including many of which were printed or hand-colored by the artist. Separately, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Oliver Room holds 3,000 prints acquired in 1997.
The archive’s holding of negatives contains most of Harris’s work but may not be complete. Certain negatives of documented Harris images are missing. A small portion of the archive may be the work of other photographers for the Pittsburgh Courier. Where doubt exists, the catalog record reads “attributed to Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris” if the work is likely to be his; or “American, 20th century” if the photographer’s identity is unknown. Copy negatives of another photographer’s work are ascribed to Harris “after another photographer,” who is named if known.
Cataloging the Collection
The Teenie Harris Archive consists primarily of photographic negatives. As a whole, the collection consists of over 70,000 negatives (58,970 of which are 4×5–inch black-and-white negatives; 14,350 are black-and-white negatives in medium formats estimated between 1965 and the 1980s; and Carnegie Museum of Art purchased the negatives and all rights from the estate of the artist in 2001. CMOA actively sought to shape its management of the archive in collaboration with an advisory committee of Harris family members, academic specialists, and Pittsburgh community leaders who insisted on the African American community’s ownership of the history represented in Harris images. Consequently, the archive catalog is based on first-person accounts by Harris’s subjects and contemporaries or contemporaneous publications such as Flash Newspicture Magazine and the Pittsburgh Courier. It is updated regularly as new information becomes available.
Titles of Harris’s photographs are descriptive and based on the content of the image. As an intentional practice, community members or contemporaneous published sources such as the Pittsburgh Courier provide valuable information such as personal names, locations, dates, and events. As research continues, this data is subject to change.
Through outreach efforts with local families and community events, the Teenie Harris Archive continues to its work in identifying the people, places, and events captured in the iconic images.
Think you or a family member are in one of Teenie’s Photos? Or if you can identify people, places, or events, Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Order Prints and Images
You can order both prints for personal use and digital image files for research and publication. Get started by reading about our image rights.
Support the Archive
Over 70,000 of the photographs captured by Teenie Harris have been preserved and cataloged by Carnegie Museum of Art. But approximately 14,000 images have yet to be digitized, leaving the identities of their subjects unknown and images hidden from history—but you can help! By supporting the Teenie Harris Archive, you will enable our archivists to continue to preserve, protect, and exhibit this national treasure. Make your enduring investment in Pittsburgh culture, history, and art by contributing to Carnegie Museum of Art.