Category Archives: Photography

Video: The Art Connection


We just wanted to say thanks to everyone who came out on Sunday, April 14 to mark the opening of The Art Connection Annual Student Exhibition! Check out the video to see our student artists hard at work in the museum’s studios as they prepared for this year’s exhibition. Throughout the school year, students in grades 5–9 worked through the creative process with the help of teaching artists in the museum’s galleries and studios. Artworks in this year’s exhibition reflect the influence of recent exhibitions such as White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Art at the World’s Fairs, 1851–1939, and Cory Arcangel: Masters.

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Wrapping up Oh Snap!


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Oh Snap! combined 13 new photographs from our collection with nearly 1,500 photo submissions from the public.

Wrap Party, Lytro Workshop, and more—Saturday, May 4
First things first—submissions for Oh Snap! Your Take on our Photographs are now closed, but we are excited to celebrate the thoughtful and creative collaboration of the hundreds of participants in the project. Don’t miss the three closing events for Oh Snap!, with a special focus on new photographic technology. A Lytro workshop gives you the chance to try out a whole new kind of camera in our galleries. A public talk with industry insiders from Lytro and GigaPan examines how these new technologies will change the way we take pictures in the future. And at the wrap party you can see all the photos in the exhibition, share your views on our feedback wall, and get your own copy of the  poster showing details from the works sent in by you (below). We hope to see you all there! The exhibition will still be on view in the Forum Gallery through May 12, but as the end of the project nears, it’s a good time to think back on how it all came together.

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The limited-edition Oh Snap! poster (36.75 x 24 inches). ORDER

Process
“If you’re not innovating you’re stagnating” asserted Jeff DeGraf, founder and guru at the Innovatrium, a consulting firm/think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jeff was speaking to small teams of staff members from six American art museums, including Carnegie Museum of Art and the Warhol that had signed on for an 8-month project to explore what’s working and what’s not in art museums with the goal of injecting a spirit of innovation and experimentation into our organizations. Practically speaking, we all had our sights set on devising new ways of staying relevant to our communities, especially to our younger visitors. Oh Snap! is the most recent manifestation of the ongoing soul-searching and fresh thinking inspired by our Innovatrium experience. We’re feeling pretty good about how the project has turned out.

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The Oh Snap! cross-departmental team brainstorming names for the project—sometimes you just have to get up on a table to get it done.

While Oh Snap! presents 13 works of art—all recently added to the museum’s photography collection—framed and hung on the walls of the museum’s Forum Gallery, the relationship to a traditional exhibition pretty much ends there. We’re calling it a “collaborative photography project,” and collaborative it is. The 13 photographs from the museum’s collection were selected by a cross-departmental team with the explicit goal of motivating the public to send to us photographs that are somehow inspired by one of the museum’s works. As new photographs came in from the public, we printed and hung them in the gallery next to the related museum work. Visitors could view the museum’s Oh Snap! selections either in the gallery or on the project’s website.

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Working on the gallery model to figure out the best way to accommodate submissions from the public.

Opening a gallery that was purposefully “unfinished” was an entirely new experience for us and signaled a new relationship we’re interested in pursuing with our audience, one in which our expertise comes together with the public’s curiosity and imagination to leave all of us a bit richer for the experience. We’re also recognizing that visitors increasingly are not limited to only those who come through our physical doors. As our physical gallery walls have changed over the past two months, our digital “gallery” has grown and changed as well. Photographs were only accepted through the website, making the web a crucial element in the project. When a submission made its way onto the wall, the sender received an email with a free pass to come see it. Submissions have been sent from locations remarkably distant from Pittsburgh, including Peru, Taiwan, France, Germany, and Finland. The project is helping us explore how Carnegie Museum of Art might build relationships through our collection and the ideas it inspires to individuals who might never have the opportunity to be our physical visitors.

Read Jeffrey Inscho’s Oh Snap! overview on Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 blog.

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Education staff reviewed all submissions as they came in, printing and posting them directly in the gallery.

Response
Two months ago we had a nearly empty gallery and have watched Oh Snap! take shape a little bit each day—growing and transforming thanks to public participation. So the first question of the project—would anyone find it compelling enough to send us their photographs—has been answered with nearly 1,500 submissions. But beyond seeing a full gallery, we are even more rewarded by what’s happening in the gallery and what participants are saying (quotes from the gallery comment book):

  • “Being able to contribute to an exhibition was thrilling. I hope the Carnegie will do many more things like this! Overall, I think the project is Brilliant!”
  • “I think it’s a great way to get the community engaged in what it means to make a photograph art.”
  • “I love seeing the public’s perspective on these photographs.”
  • “Brings art into our lives and our lives into art.”
  • “I could spend all day here but I won’t ‘cause I’m going home to look for something I can submit.”

Ok, it’s pretty hard not to feel elated about comments like that! Many similar messages in the gallery comment book make it clear how appealing it is to be part of the experience. But more than just rallying the crowd, Oh Snap! has also motivated real looking, thinking, and responding to art. The project doesn’t ask for any photograph you want to send us, it invites the public to collaborate with us in interpreting—finding meaning—in specific works in our collection.

It seems that by literally “leaving room” on the gallery walls for the public’s photographs, visitors took up the challenge of seeing the museum’s works as catalysts provoking reflective thinking, inspiring comparison, and motivating action. In Oh Snap!, we actively welcomed those responses, sharing them with other visitors, and acknowledging that a museum experience is not one-directional. The project has produced a real and dynamic partnership between museum and public. That partnership inspires further impact as new visitors—whether contributors or not—linger in the gallery every day comparing museum photographs and public photographs, chatting actively with friends, speculating about connections, and marveling at the range of interpretations a single work of art might inspire.

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Charlee Brodsky, Last Smokestacks at the Homestead Works, c. 1995, gelatin silver print, Gift of the artist, 2009.29.4 © 1995 Charlee Brodsky. By permission

Charlee Brodsky’s image, Last Smokestacks at the Homestead Works is one of the photographs from the museum’s collection selected for Oh Snap!; it is now surrounded by over 170 public photographs (examples below). Several of them capitalize on the image’s powerful composition—a broad flat plane of dirt punctuated by a single vertical element directly in the center of the scene. Many of these submitted photographs achieve a similar sense of order, calm, and solitude through similar arrangements of horizontals, verticals, and measured proportion. But others take a different approach. One submitted photograph offers no visual similarities to the museum’s work but instead shows the facade of Pittsburgh’s United Steelworkers Building, perhaps calling to mind the thousands of workers who once brought life to the site, the former Homestead Steel Works plant. I hear lots of gallery visitors wondering aloud about a photograph of a limp and lifeless bird and another of a dead fish stuck in an expanse of wet sand both of which, when placed near Charlee’s quiet image, take on a sense of poignancy. Then there is the picture of the glowing ball poised in the center of a well-mowed back yard. What might that one be about? These leaps in thought and imagination show just how much room for interpretation the project allowed. Thankfully, art endures because it keeps speaking to people about its own context but also in new and personally meaningful ways.

Some Stats

Age breakdown of the nearly 600 contributors:

  • Not indicated: 7%
  • 18–24: 21%
  • 25–34: 20%
  • 35–54: 29%
  • 55–64: 14%
  • 65 and over: 8%

How contributors heard about the project:

  • From a friend: 38%
  • At the museum: 33%
  • Online: 27%
  • Print media: 2%

Teenie Harris, Professional Basketball Player


Photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris was a well-known athlete in his youth long before he earned his moniker of “One Shot.” In the first half of the 1920s, along with Bill Harris (no relation), he founded the Pittsburgh Crawfords baseball team that would become a Negro League powerhouse. Around the same time, he was developing a reputation as an ace dribbler and fast player on the basketball court, and later as a well-respected team manager and coach. The Pittsburgh Courier newspaper would report weekly details of his actions in the game.

Among the first teams Harris gained his reputation was as captain on the Paramount A. C. basketball team that played in the 1926 city championship. Through the 1920s and early 1930s he played intermittently for the team, including brief stints on rival teams including Holy Cross and Loendi. Paramount A. C. later became the Hotel Bailey Big Five team in whose uniform he’s captured in this image by an unknown photographer.

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Copy of a c. 1929–1931 photograph of Charles “Teenie” Harris in Hotel Bailey basketball uniform, with basketball on floor, in studio setting, copy created by Harris c. 1950–1970, Heinz Family Fund

In 1934, he extended his coaching skills to the local Savoy women’s basketball team whose games were described as “fast-paced.” Also at this time, when Harris was in his mid-20s, his career was at its peak with the Iron City Elks team. Chester Washington, in his sports column for the Pittsburgh Courier on March 28, 1936, describes Harris as:

“…the deceptive little scooter and dribbler, a former Paramount A. C. speedster who is not only a sterling little runner if the race grows hot and needs him, but together with Harry Beale handles the managerial reins of the antlered ponies.”

The Iron City Elks completed against teams from the greater western Pennsylvania region, east coast, and fraternities and colleges such as Wilberforce. Through his managerial skills, he was able to bring the New York Renaissance and Celtics teams to play in Pittsburgh. According to his son, Charles A. “Little Teenie” Harris:

“The greatest achievement my dad felt that he had was bringing to Pittsburgh the two best basketball teams in the world from New York—the Renaissance and the Celtics.  He never looked forward to a basketball game as much as he did when the Rens came to town.”

Harris began to get serious about photography in late 1937 and began publishing his images in Washington DC based Flash Newspicture Magazine in 1938. Consequently, he named his next basketball team “Flash.” On February 10, 1938, the New York Renaissance came to Pittsburgh to play the Pittsburgh Pirates basketball team and two days later they played Flash. Flash lost to the New York Renaissance at the Centre Avenue YMCA.

Shortly thereafter he increasingly turned his attention to coaching, including the Centre Avenue YMCA team, and formed a recreational team made up of former professional and college players named “The Old Timers” a few years later. His love of the sport and admiration for the New York Renaissance was passed on to his son. “Little Teenie” formed and captained his own teams which he named “The Rens,” and played on school teams as well.

In 1946, father and son played against each other in what his son humbly described as “basketball 101,” since the youth were so instructed (and beaten 34–22) by their elders.

Teenie’s basketball career declined by the 1950s, when his Old Timer’s team was referred by the Courier as the “’Real’ Old-timers… held together by ankle wraps and lineament.”

Teenie’s first photos in the Pittsburgh Courier?


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Spread from Flash Newspicture magazine, February 14, 1938, pages 22–23

Seventy-five years ago today, in 1938, the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper printed pictures of a young Lena Horne (a Pittsburgher at the time) at the Allegheny County Airport as she departed for Hollywood. She spent the hours before at a farewell party in her honor at the Loendi Club in the Hill District. At the airport, her husband Louis Jones, her father Teddy Horne, and friends Woogie and Ada Harris were there to wish her a bon voyage—she had even borrowed a Persian lamb coat from Ada Harris for the trip. Teenie Harris was there the entire time and photographed the young star in broad smiles looking excited and beautiful. Shortly afterwards, the readers of the Courier, the most widely circulated black newspaper in the country, saw these pictures, though without any credit to the photographer. However, we believe that they are possibly the first ones that Harris had published in the Courier.  At the same time, these pictures, along with several others, were published in a two-page spread in the Washington, D.C.-based Flash Newspicture magazine.

Harris had begun contributing images to Flash in the autumn of 1937, about the time he purchased his trademark 4×5 Speed Graphic camera.

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Photographer unknown, Charles “Teenie” Harris in front of Flash circulation office, 2132 Centre Avenue, Hill District, c. 1937

By 1938, he was listed on the masthead of Flash as one of the publication’s photographers, and he had opened a photography studio with Harry Beale at 2128 Centre Avenue in the Hill District. Several stories circulate about exactly how, when, and why Harris began to work with the Courier, but he was beginning to make a name for himself as a photographer. Other Pittsburgh Courier staff, including reporter-photographer Joe Sewell, photographer Alex Rivera, and gossip columnist Julia Bumry Jones also contributed to Flash.  Whatever the specific details were (and we would love to know them) about Harris’s early relationship with the Courier, within a few months he was regularly freelancing for the publication. In the May 7, 1938, issue he was finally credited for his picture of Marva Louis, wife of boxer Joe Louis, at a fashion show.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Marva Louis standing behind artificial palm tree, for Centre Avenue YMCA Junior Hostesses Fashion Revue, April 1938

Harris became a staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier in 1941, and continued into the mid- to late 1970s, amassing possibly the largest body of work of a black community by a single photographer in the mid-twentieth century.

Hearing Dr. King’s Speech


August 28, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which he prophetically described as the event that “will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”

Many Pittsburghers traveled to the demonstration in Washington D.C. that day, including Sala Udin, who organized a bus full of students on behalf of the NAACP Youth Council of Staten Island, New York (where he was in high school at the time) to attend the historic event.  He described that day during an interview conducted by the staff of the Teenie Harris Archive in 2011:

“We arrived early in the morning, and as the August sun in Washington D.C. got hotter and hotter and hotter, and the day went on, and speaker after speaker… and everybody was really waitin’ for the main keynote speaker of the day, was a man named Dr. King. And when he came out, a quarter of a million people just fell completely silent, and he spoke about what was happening to civil rights workers and people who lived in the south where he had come to Washington D.C. from. And he came with a message to tell Washington that they had given black folks a bad check, and he came to make that check good. I’d never heard anybody speak like that, except maybe Malcolm, in Harlem. And I said to myself, standing right there on the mall in that hot sun, sweatin’ – I said I want to join whatever it is he’s doing – I want to be one of them. And eighteen months later, I was on a bus headed for Mississippi, having been recruited by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and SNCC to come to Mississippi to work on voter registration, integrating schools and lunch counters, and so I had the opportunity to become a Freedom Rider. So that’s how I got involved.”

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with Loran Mann, Charles Harris, Matthew Moore, and Tom McGarrity at press conference, University of Pittsburgh, November 1966

Three years after this influential event, in November of 1966, Dr. King spoke in Pittsburgh where according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he “drew the largest turnout of students ever to hear a visiting speaker” at the University of Pittsburgh’s student union.  Teenie Harris captured several images of the press conference that followed Dr. King’s speech for the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., seated behind table with microphone, with Charles Harris and Matthew Moore behind him, at press conference, University of Pittsburgh, November 1966

Hear the full version of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.