Hollywood’s new wunderkind cinematographer took time out of his schedule filming Arrival and Star Wars to visit and interpret the photography of Pittsburgh’s legendary Charles “Teenie” Harris.
Somewhere around the time that cinematographer Bradford Young became an official cinematic legend for his crisp camera work on several critically acclaimed movies such as Selma, A Most Violent Year, the documentary I Called Him Morgan, and the sci-flick Arrival—which garnered him several Oscar nominations—and as he was answering the call to helm the camera for the upcoming Star Wars Han Solo story, he wandered into Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District in search of light. He had been called to the city by the Carnegie Museum of Art to participate in its Lightime series, where artists explore the function of light and photography in relationship to issues such as environmental sustainability and social justice.
Before this, Young had few connections to Pittsburgh other than studying the work of some of the city’s early experimental filmmakers when he was attending film school at Howard University. At Howard, he had also learned about the work of Charles “Teenie” Harris, the renowned black photographer who shot for the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, and whose treasure trove of images currently resides at the Carnegie Museum. That Harris connection was pretty much all Young needed to convince him to accept the invitation, and he made Harris’s photos of life in the mid-20th century Hill District the centerpiece of his video installation “REkOGNIZE,” which just opened at the museum on June 16.
In the exhibit, Young juxtaposes Harris’s charcoal-and-smoke photos of Hill District nightlife in its once-famous jazz clubs with brighter images of white families in matrimonial settings, the results of Harris’s side-gig as a wedding photographer. Images of black children lined up in costume at a Halloween party and night shots of…