My first impression of the Carnegie's Teenie Harris show was anger, over the tiny number of 12 framed prints. Slowly, I've spent more time with the show and am gathering in the wisdom of what was done.
More than most photographers, Harris's work has a dual identity as both potentially fine art and clear journalistic, documentation. Harris himself, never considered himself an artist. When late in life, he said he felt his pictures belonged at the Carnegie, my guess is that he was making more of a statement about his subject matter than anything else. Clearly, he felt that Pittsburgh's African American community and the Hill District was deeply worthy of recognition and he was proud of doing that. We now largely know this community through his work.
I think, the curator said the museum has about 80,000 Harris negatives, of which only about 30,000 have been well researched. The format, built around a large room of projected images and a larger one showing small postcard sized photos in a huge grid, makes one aware of the huge output, and the immense richness of his subject. Of course, the high consistent quality reveals that Harris rarely took a bad photo.
Be back with more thoughts about this show, which requires and rewards spending time looking.
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