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Charles Harris (1908-1998)

Charles “Teenie” Harris was born in 1908 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began his career as a photographer in the 1930s and quickly earned the nickname “One Shot” for his habit of rarely needing to take a second shot. As an African American photographer living through the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras in the United States, Charles Harris captured dozens of figures who shaped history in his work, as well as images of daily life in an urban setting. Harris’s photographs of musical legends such as Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles, and Duke Ellington captured the vibrancy of the Jazz age alongside the social revolutions taking place.

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Charles Harris was a semi-pro athlete before buying his first camera in the early 1930s. After opening his own photography studio he did freelance work for Flash! magazine. From 1936 to 1975 he worked for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the oldest Black newspapers in America, photographing daily life around the neighborhoods of his native city of Pittsburgh. Harris’ body of work includes over 80,000 images, especially impressive given his “One Shot” nickname and reputation. His photographs make up one of the largest and most in-depth documentations of a minority community in the United States. Most of Charles Harris’ work has been scanned and cataloged by the Carnegie Museum of Art. The museum maintains a searchable archive online and a retrospective exhibition of his work was held in 2012.

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