The Gallery at Main, in alignment with the mission of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP), seeks to provide access to artwork generated in community settings and/or to work that touches on community themes. The Gallery at Main reflects and complements services, programs, partnerships, and community events that our organization is engaged with in our community. Exhibits may be presented in a variety of formats and be reflective of community interests and needs.
Few Pittsburgh Photographic Library photographers produced images as powerful or as socially conscious as did Richard Saunders.”
– Witness to the Fifties: The Pittsburgh Photographic Library, 1950 – 1953,
edited by Constance B. Schulz and Steven W. Plattner with text by Clarke M. Thomas
Born in 1922 in Bermuda, Richard Saunders first met Roy Stryker during Stryker’s tenure at Standard Oil. In 1951, Stryker invited Saunders to
document the rapid changes occurring in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Although not limited to the Hill District, Saunders followed Stryker’s request to document the social and economic conditions of the predominantly black area at the time. For two years, Saunders lived in the Hill District and slowly gained the trust of residents and local law officials, who were at first skeptical of the tall, 28-year old photographer and his motives. Many of the photos highlighted here document the Hill District as housing stock, landmarks, and cultural hubs were demolished to make room for the Civic Arena and Bedford Dwellings.
“As a witness to the social inequalities faced by residents in the Hill District, Saunders often felt challenged. Never before had he photographed
such poverty. Although as a black man he could move more freely in the Hill District than a white photographer, he had not grown up in the United States, and he was going into an environment that he didn’t know and hadn’t lived in.
Nonetheless, his 3,000 Pittsburgh photographs constitute an important social record remarkably free of any bitterness or frustration he might
have felt documenting life in the Hill District.”
Saunders went on to accept assignments for top publications such as Ladies Home Journal, Fortune, Ebony and Look. He also travelled on assignment
to Latin America and Africa to document events, leaders and ordinary people. Transferred in 1972 to Topic’s office in Washington, D.C., Saunders continued to travel and photograph in Africa until his retirement in 1986. In addition to publication of his photographs in magazines, Saunders exhibited his work in group and one-person shows.
Other Exhibitions at the Main Library
New Archives: Visions & Voices from AWC Lab
“New Archives: Visions & Voices from AWC Lab” is a collection of collaborative works by Pittsburgh and New York artists, on view at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh–Main (Oakland) Jan 26- Mar 3, 2019.
— Iyapo Repository [Salome Asega, Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde, Mariama Jalloh, Mala Kumar]
— Black Unicorn Library & Archives Project [Bekezela Mguni]
— Afronaut(a) [Alisha Wormsley, Njaimeh Njie, Christina Springer]
— Institute of Plant Motivation [Becs Epstein]
— BOOM Concepts [D.S. Kinsel, Anqwenique Wingfield] & Ava Kling
The videos, sculptures, manuscripts and digital artworks on view are based on storylines and designs created between the artists and over 100 Pittsburgh residents who participated in the August Wilson Center Lab.
The AWC Lab was a pop-up art & technology research center where people of all ages imagined and enacted futuristic tools, technologies, systems, and narratives that affirm and project the future of people of African descent.
The AWC Lab artworks engage collective and personal approaches to storytelling & archival practice, afrofuturism, science-fiction, and design-thinking.
This exhibition with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provides a special opportunity for these works to be in conversation with one of Pittsburgh’s largest and oldest archives — the public library.