Motor City Underground: Leni Sinclair Photographs 1963-1978

More than a decade in the making, Motor City Underground: The Photography of Leni Sinclair 1963-1978 is the first major monograph on this Detroit area photographer.

Leni Sinclair’s life history is entwined with happenings and events from Detroit culture and politics from the 1960s and 70s. The book opens with the March on Washington in 1963,  and moves to the avant-garde Red Door Gallery, the Detroit Artist’s Workshop, the pioneers of free jazz and the growth of home-grown blues and rock ‘n roll.

Motor City Underground contains a major section documenting the MC5, with many never-before seen and unpublished photographs. Included are period shots of Iggy Pop, Jimi Hendrix, the SRC, Mitch Ryder, Bob Seger, Ted Lucas, Dr. John, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, The Up, and many other Detroit based luminaries of art, music and politics.

Great Jazz musicians at the precipice of the free jazz movement are featured in portraits of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Elvin Jones, and Pharoah Sanders. Second generation of Detroit free jazz artists; Faruq Z. Bey, Charles Moore, Sam Sanders, Marcus Belgrave and Ibn Aaron Pori Pitts are also included.

Leni was a radical organizer and activist present at the foundation of Trans-Love Energies, the White Panther Party, the Red Star Sisters, the Rainbow Peoples Party, and documented the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festivals and the Free John Sinclair Rallys and helped manage the release of the Detroit Red Squad files under the direction of Mayor Coleman Young. Her energy

Motor City Underground has a text by Cary Loren, populated by quotes, captions, and many first hand interviews with Leni and John Sinclair, Pun Plamondon, Genie Parker, James Semark, Charles Moore, Robin Eichley, Martine Algire, Howard Weingarden, Michael Davis, Wayne Kramer, Ed Sanders, Stephen Ligosky, Rebecca Derminer, Gary Grimshaw, Russ Gibb, Scott Richardson, Frank and Peggy Bach, Judith Janis and George Tysh. A biographical text in the book follows Leni’s life from communist East Germany in the 1940s to the fall of Richard Nixon and the fight for legalized marijuana.

An engaging interview with Leni Sinclair by author and editor Kristine McKenna caps off the book, beautifully designed by Lorraine Wild and Green Dragon Press in Los Angeles. The book project was first instigated by artist Mike Kelley in 2010, who was inspired by the Detroit rock aesthetics and radical politics in his youth (as were Loren and Wild). Motor City Underground is an oversized hardbound book, 10″x11″, 408 pages, with hundreds of photos, flyers, posters and other ephemera, printed in black and white and color. The book is published by MOCAD and Foggy Notion.

First edition copies of Motor City Underground are now available for preorder. Copies are expected to arrive in mid-April.

A signed, numbered and limited edition of 50 copies of the first edition will also be made available soon. The book will be housed in a purple cloth slipcase with a Gary Grimshaw estate sanctioned silkscreen, signed and numbered silver gelatin photograph, printed on archival fiber based paper by Leni Sinclair. This edition will be available in late April. 

$ 60.00

Available on backorder