Profile: Charles Harris (1908-1998)

Charles “Teenie” Harris was an American photographer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Harris was known for his photographs of residents and prominent visitors to Pittsburgh, including musicians and baseball players, which often appeared in the Pittsburgh Courier. His work is preserved in the permanent collection of the Carnegie Museum as a chronicle of mid-20th century life in Pittsburgh’s African American communities.

Biography

Harris was born in 1908 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, the son of hotel owners in the city’s Hill District. Early in the 1930s he purchased his first camera and opened a photography studio. He freelanced for the Washington, D.C. news picture magazine Flash!From 1936 to 1975 Harris chronicled life in the black neighborhoods of the city for the Pittsburgh Courier one of America’s oldest black newspapers. Harris was nicknamed “One Shot” because he rarely made his subjects sit for retakes. Harris took more than 80,000 images during his career.

In addition to his photo essays of daily life in the city, he captured many celebrities who visited Pittsburgh, including Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, Erroll Garner, Duke Ellington,Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles.

Harris also photographed legendary Negro League baseball players of the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. Harris himself played baseball for the Crawfords when they were known as the Crawford Colored Giants.

In 1986 he licensed his collection of photographs for $3000 to a local entrepreneur, Dennis Morgan. Subsequently, these so-called “Morgan prints” were sold at street fairs in Pittsburgh.Harris filed a lawsuit in 1998 for unpaid royalties and the return of his collection. He won the case posthumously.

Harris died in 1998.

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