Charles “Teenie” Harris was an African-American photographer who was known for his exceptional photography skills. Harris was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to William and Ella Mae Harris, owners of the Masio Hotel located on Wylie Avenue. Harris’ family was considered one of the most prominent families in the neighborhood. The family took in boarders, usually laborers, from the south attracted by jobs in the industrial north.
As a young boy, Harris attended Watt School and upon graduating, worked as a chauffeur and mechanic with his brother until 1938. In the late 1920s, Harris became a founding member of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, a sandlot baseball team. He played for them until 1930, when the Crawfords entered Negro League competition.
During this time, Harris purchased his very first camera from money given to him by his brother. Harris was interested in the celebrity life and would frequent certain places in order to photograph them. He married Ruth M. Butler, but they separated in 1932. In 1938, he opened a photo studio and later remarried and had four children. In 1953, he closed his studio, but did not retire from the Pittsburgh Courier until 1975.
In 1986, Harris signed a management agreement with Pittsburgh artist and entrepreneur Dennis Morgan for his photographic works. Harris was best known for his images of celebrities and black life throughout Pittsburg. He died in 1998.
The Carnegie Museum of Art eventually purchased 27 vintage prints that belonged to Harris. However, there are more than 3,000 vintage prints in the Harris archives.
Photo: Property of Carnegie Art Museum