Category Archives: Teenie Harris

In Memory of Thelma Williams Lovette: Advocate, Activist, and Mentor


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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Thelma Lovette, Andrea Williams, and Nadine Woodward, gathered at table for Sequoires Tri Hi-Y Club meeting in Centre Avenue YMCA, February 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.14910 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive.

Another icon of civil rights, equality, women’s advancements, and a mentor of youth has left us in death: Mrs. Thelma Williams Lovette. Born on February 28, 1916, and raised as one of 11 children on Wylie Avenue in the Hill District neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Lovette was modest and demure, but quite spunky, which surprisingly offset her outstanding moral strength and civic duty. She never was one to take the spotlight, which is most evident in the Teenie Harris Archive photos of her (only in several instances did she look directly into his lens), but rather she gave focus to the others with her and to the occasion at which she was being photographed. This subtle observance denotes one of her most honorable qualities—humility. I say one of her qualities, because Mrs. Lovette had many. Continue reading

Bill Nunn Jr., 1924–2014: Newsman, Steelers Scout, Local Icon


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, 1997.34.3.3 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

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, 1997.34.3.3 © 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

Architecture + Teenie Harris


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

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

Teenie Harris’s Pastime


Charles "Teenie" Harris, Charles "Teenie" Harris, wearing riding attire, seated on horse and patting the horse's neck, possibly in Schenley Park, with Adirondack chair in background, c. 1935-1940, black and white: unknown safety film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.8715 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

Charles “Teenie” Harris, Charles “Teenie” Harris, wearing riding attire, seated on horse and patting the horse’s neck, possibly in Schenley Park, with Adirondack chair in background, c. 1935-1940, black and white: unknown safety film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.8715 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

When we talk to people who knew Teenie Harris personally we hear the same thing over and over again: Teenie was everywhere, always taking pictures. We asked his family if he ever slept since the other part of taking pictures required long hours in the darkroom. They said he managed to keep on going with his trademark positive energy despite little sleep at times. Then we wondered, what about his down time, did he ever put down the camera? Continue reading

Thelma Lovette YMCA


ymca2On Saturday February 15, 2014, the Thelma Lovette YMCA in Pittsburgh’s Hill District celebrated its second year with an outstanding Black History month event, centering on the theme “From Which We Came.” The Teenie Harris Archive was invited to display the myriads of photos which Teenie shot in and around the old Centre Avenue YMCA, bearing witness that this original community center was, in fact, the “hub of the Hill” in its heyday.

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Established in 1923, it was noted that the first YMCA (at the Corner of Centre Avenue and Francis Street) opened before both the NAACP and the Urban League held branches in Pittsburgh. The many distinguished speakers discussed the fact that the YMCA had been THE place to meet for not just sports events, but organization meetings, society soirees, cotillions, youth groups, plays, and much more. Dr. Leon Haley, who has written a book on the history of the Centre Avenue YMCA, gave an insightful presentation on what went on in the Y, for many decades. There was a Black Civil War Drum Corps reenactment led by John Ford, a performance by the Miller School of African Dance and Drum Troop, as well as elected officials such as city councilman Daniel Lavelle and Bill Robinson giving commendations. Thelma Lovette YMCA executive director, Aaron Gibson, gave a wonderful speech voicing both his, and other board members hopes—that the new facility will come to reflect the positive community bonding of the older facility.

Charles "Teenie" Harris, Capt. Charles B. Hall standing in convertible car between Joseph M. Guffey and David L. Lawrence in Independence Day parade, with broadside on telephone pole in background advertising Louis Jordan at the Savoy, on Centre Avenue at Francis Street in front of YMCA, Hill District, July 4, 1945, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.9794 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

Charles “Teenie” Harris, Capt. Charles B. Hall standing in convertible car between Joseph M. Guffey and David L. Lawrence in Independence Day parade, with broadside on telephone pole in background advertising Louis Jordan at the Savoy, on Centre Avenue at Francis Street in front of YMCA, Hill District, July 4, 1945, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.9794 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

In the coming months, the Teenie Harris Archive will have a permanent display of several historic images on the internal walls of the new Y. However, for this event, the Harris Archive displayed 4 poster boards with over 70 images (and two notebooks with even more images) of people enjoying the facilities of the old Y. One book centered solely on Teenie Harris capturing the philanthropic work of Mrs. Thelma Lovette in his lens. As a result of our display and chatting with guests, the Harris Archive received more than 30 new identifications of people and events. Many were very sentimental about the images of swimmers, basketball games, ping pong and boxing matches, dance classes, voter registration drives, and teen parties. I even found one of my own mother, doing “calisthenics” in the 1940s. Patrons were eager to share their treasured memories of what they loved about going to the Y. (I was particularly amused to hear about the many courtships begun at this central location.) So once again I’m happy to say the Teenie Harris Archive offered insight and reflection on a most historic Pittsburgh venue.

Charles "Teenie" Harris, Group portrait, from left, seated: James F. Clarke, Thelma Lovette, Theodore "Ted" Brown, K. Leroy Irvis, and William Finch; standing: Leroy Wilcox and William E. "Bill" Miller, gathered in interior with leaf patterned curtains and mirror during primary election campaign, April 1958, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.47750 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

Charles “Teenie” Harris, Group portrait, from left, seated: James F. Clarke, Thelma Lovette, Theodore “Ted” Brown, K. Leroy Irvis, and William Finch; standing: Leroy Wilcox and William E. “Bill” Miller, gathered in interior with leaf patterned curtains and mirror during primary election campaign, April 1958, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.47750 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive