Museum visitors browse some of the photobooks on display at The Sandbox: At Play with the Photobook installation during its opening event on May 3, 2014 © Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo: Josh Franzos.
Last Monday, The Sandbox: At Play with the Photobook, an installation that transformed the Coatroom Gallery into a reading room and public forum on the photobook, ended its three-month run at Carnegie Museum of Art. Facilitated by artists-in-residence Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar, who own Spaces Corners, a Pittsburgh bookshop dedicated to photography books, The Sandbox offered visitors an immersive look at the medium, while at the same time sharing the work of both emerging and established photographers who often operate at the intersection of experimental image-making and modern photography.
“There’s a density to these books,” says Panar, “each one is like a gallery exhibition.” He motions with his hand to a plywood table in the center of the Coatroom Gallery that displays rows of neatly ordered photobooks—most of which are little-known to the general public, but often highly coveted among photography enthusiasts keen on high-quality, limited-run publications that express the personality of a given photographer or moment in time. Salad Days, for example, a zine-like photobook that chronicles Panar’s own teenage years at a vocational high school in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, acts as a time capsule of American culture in the early 1990s. Shot with color film, the photographs in the book capture an awkward yet intimate view of adolescence that goes beyond Panar’s personal experience, with many of the images evoking an almost-tangible sense of time and place. Continue reading
Screenshot of the Hillman Photography Initiative website, launched April 2014
Ever since Carnegie Museum of Art launched the Hillman Photography Initiative earlier this year, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it means for a museum to be truly experimental. When I began my research three years ago, the major premise of the Initiative was to create something totally new in the field of photography. On the other side of a successful launch, I now realize just how ambitious our goal was. But at the time, it felt more like an amorphous challenge, albeit one that had all my problem-solving neurons firing. As with any experiment, we didn’t have a clear understanding of how the Initiative would manifest or what form it would take. Now that the project is up and running, I find myself looking back at how the Initiative was realized and some of the things we’ve learned so far. Continue reading
Charles “Teenie” Harris, Group portrait of eight men, including Bill Nunn Sr., Brooklyn Dodgers baseball players Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, Courier sports reporter Chester Washington, and Teddy Horne, c. 1948–1956, gelatin silver print, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 19220.127.116.11 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive
On a sunny July afternoon in 2011, I had the privilege of going to the home of William G. Nunn Jr. and Frances Bell Nunn, to interview them for the Teenie Harris Archive’s oral histories. I had known them casually in my childhood, but as their front door opened two impressions hit me: 1) Here were some of Pittsburgh’s finest African American citizens, and (2) how much they seemed to still be in love. They greeted me, together, with big smiles and we shared a warm, informative afternoon full of both serious discussion and rich laughter. Continue reading
Isenberg Barn, Alexandria, Pennsylvania, 2005
As a professional photographer, my experience with architecture is not so much the history or study of as it is one of practical knowledge. You need to learn the hallmarks of the different genres to speak with some intelligence to various clients. Before working as an architectural photographer for Carnegie Museum of Art in 2004, I really only knew of Frank Lloyd Wright and a handful of other names, but of course still could pick out visually interesting buildings and enjoy the differences between eras. Continue reading
Charles “Teenie” Harris, Dramatic sky seen from Penn Avenue near Homewood, c. 1943, gelatin silver print, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 1996.69.224 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive
Teenie Harris is perhaps best known for his ability to photograph people and capture their spectrum of expressions as well as truthfully document their life events. He was surrounded by family, friends, and a large community who seemed to be drawn to him and offered their trust to his lens, as well as frequently “photobombed” the margins of his frame while he was on assignment.
But Harris also had a keen eye for architecture and the urban landscape—he was known to have a deep love for the city of Pittsburgh, and at times it seems as if the city itself was another member of his community. His landscape and architectural images show the same intimacy and the deliberate and careful composition that he used when photographing children playing in the street or a family being evicted from their home. Continue reading