Bruce Weber, icon of fashion photography, captures Detroit in new exhibit


When fashion photographer Bruce Weber came to Detroit in 2006 to shoot a series for W with supermodel Kate Moss, he really didn’t know what to expect. Also a mostly skeptical Detroit who came up to their necks with lens people from all over the world to poke fun at the usual ruin porn suspects.

But Weber didn’t want that. What he got with a little help from his friends in Detroit was a glimpse into the beating heart of the city. What Detroit got was continued respect and love from an artist who has since returned for an advertising campaign (last fall) to further raise the profile of high-end bicycle and watchmaker Shinola around the world.

To close the circle, the Detroit Institute of Arts opened the “Detroit – Bruce Weber” exhibition on June 20, 2014, showing many images from this and other visits from 2006.

Photographer and location manager Dave Krieger was one of the Detroiters who guided Weber to authentic people and locations for the W shoot. He also worked as a local producer of weavers for the Shinola campaign.

“What was immediately apparent was how much Bruce began to love Detroit,” says Krieger. “He dug up people’s energy, he loved the architecture, the buildings, and the potential. He was excited to see people involved in the growth and rehabilitation of their city.”

Krieger helped identify locations that turned out to be key spots for the W route – including Belle Isle, Kronk Gym, Perfecting Church, and the Raven Lounge, where his shots of Kate Moss turned into gritty R&B all night danced, appearing to be a regular on legendary Chene Street.

Krieger says the natural look of Weber’s photographs is a direct result of the collaboration between him and his team.

“Bruce is an artist whose soul is at peace,” says Krieger. “He’s a gentle leader, very focused, very patient, doesn’t get angry. He has a lovely relationship with his crew, some of whom have stayed with him for 20 years.”

Earthy portraits

Weber’s career has been on an upward trend since the late 1970s when his work appeared in Soho Weekly and GQ. In the 1980s, his fashion shoots for Calvin Klein, portraits of actor Richard Gere and directing the documentary “Let’s Get Lost,” starring the disturbed jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, raised his profile even further. The film was nominated for an Oscar in 1988. He later photographed the Ralph Lauren winter collection and worked for Versace, Abercrombie and Fitch. His work has been described as “images that combine classic styling with more visceral foundations of desire, mood, and sexuality”.

In collaboration with Condé Nast, the DIA exhibition shows over 70 Weber photographs. Most are what graphic arts curator Nancy Barr calls “earthy portraits” of regular Detroiters, others of young poets and musicians and creatives, still others of “famous Detroiters” and pictures of local places and landmarks.

“What stood out about his visit in 2006 was that it was so much more than a fashion shoot,” says Barr. “It was reportage, a high-profile photo essay about Detroit.”

In a recent preview piece for the upcoming show in Vogue (like W, a Condé Nast publication), Weber says, “Over the years I’ve seen pictures of Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, portraits in Detroit and myself. ” I would say, “I wonder why all these people went there.” And when I got there, I knew why. There is a freedom there that cannot be found anywhere else. “

Expect portraits of activist Grace Lee Boggs, R&B music legend Aretha Franklin, poet-punk icon Patti Smith, members of the Detroit chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, and more. The images are in black and white and color, some in massive 40 ‘x 50’ prints.
A book with Weber photos – “more than will appear in the exhibition,” says Barr – will accompany the exhibition. The book “Detroit Was Good To Me” also contains poems by prominent Kresge artists Naomi Long Madgett and Gil Scott-Heron from 2012 and an essay by Barr. The cost is $ 65 and is available from DIA.

100 women for the arts

The Weber exhibition started with a sold out lunch on June 19 in the Great Hall of the DIA. Lunch was a fundraiser by 100 Women for the Arts, an organization set up to raise money for strategic museum projects. (The exhibition opened to the public on June 20th.)

In 2012, Barbara Gucfa, a director of Alix Partners, founded 100 Women for the Arts, which invites women to gather once a year to raise funds for the DIA’s most pressing strategic priorities. DIA board member Nicole Eisenberg is co-chair of the group.

A one-hour reception at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham in 2012 raised $ 100,000 in support of the museum’s regional property tax initiative at a one-hour reception at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. Millage has passed and now generates $ 23 million annually for the DIA operating budget.

Eisenberg said the Thursday lunch before the Bruce Weber exhibition opened was hoping to raise more than $ 230,000 to aid the museum’s fundraiser for the future.

“Our group gives women a voice to offer gifts on their own behalf,” says Eisenberg. “Doing an event for an artist like Bruce Weber and an organization like Condé Nast is a real honor. They know what’s going on in Detroit and it’s amazing to have people in New York totally behind the DIA.”

Condé Nast executives, including Vogue editor and Condé Nast Artistic Director Anna Wintour, attended their lunch with the 100 Women for the Arts to support Weber and the DIA.

“If we do the Bruce Weber exhibition and have Condé Nast here for lunch, Detroit is spot on,” says Gucfa. “We see a commitment from the community, an indication that people come together through art.”

The details

“Detroit – Bruce Weber” runs June 20th through September 20th. 7. 2014 at DIA. The exhibition is free with admission to the museum and is organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts and presented in collaboration with Condé Nast.

Walter Wasacz is a Hamtramck-based freelancer and editor. Follow him on Twitter @nospectable.

Photos courtesy of Condé Nast.

This article originally ran on, a SE Michigan arts and culture news and events website operated by CultureSource.


Dusty Kennedy