Bruce Weber, Patti Smith, Anna Wintour, and Charles Townsend at the opening of Detroit - Bruce Weber.
In speaking of Detroit, Bruce Weber has said, “Over the years, I’d see pictures by Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, portraits done in Detroit, and I’d say, ‘I wonder why all those guys went there.’ And as soon as I got there, I knew why. There’s a freedom there that doesn’t exist anywhere else.” Weber first traveled to Detroit in 2006 on an assignment for the September issue of W Magazine with Kate Moss. During his trip Weber became enchanted with the Motor City and the vibrant character of its residents. “Detroit – Bruce Weber,” an exhibit which opened last week at the Detroit Institute of Art, documents this love story. The exhibit, sponsored by Condé Nast, features 80 images from Bruce’s commissioned trips to Detroit, the first one as mentioned in 2006 for W and the second one in 2013 to shoot an ad campaign for Detroit-based watchmakers, Shinola. The collection of images draws material from both projects as well as picture of the local characters who inspired Weber and photos he’s taken of international celebrities with Detroit roots (including Madonna, Aretha Franklin and Francis Ford Coppola, to name a few)
As both a native to the greater Detroit area and a person acutely interested in fashion, this exhibit seems like two completely incongruent worlds colliding. The end result, however, is rather endearing and entirely cohesive. Bruce Weber’s sensitivity to his subject matter extends beyond the realm of fashion––he has truly tapped into a side of Detroit generally unseen. Most people seem to have a very specific image of Detroit as being a ruinous and crime-ridden city in a perpetual state of decay. This is generally an assumption fueled by click-bait headlines which siphon from the city’s deteriorated architecture and infrastructure for shock value. While many people have strong convictions about exactly what Detroit is like, very few people can say they’ve actually visited. Weber’s exhibition is refreshing for someone like myself who has several times had to defend Detroit’s integrity to outsiders. As a prominent member of the fashion community, Weber’s advocacy on behalf of the city’s continued exuberance has already brought much attention to Detroit for audiences which may otherwise be ignorant. That the attention is coming predominantly from the fashion world is rather surreal but nonetheless inspired. Both Weber’s and his local subjects’ abundant love for the city of Detroit is infectious.
“Detroit – Bruce Weber” is on at the Detroit Institute of Art until September 7, 2014. For further information, visit www.dia.org.
(L) Brandon Russell, with hair designed by Steven Noss, Photo by Bruce Weber, 2006. (R) Detroit native Madonna, Photo by Bruce Weber, New York, 1986.
Majik Touch Dance Company, Photo by Bruce Weber, Detroit, 2013.
(L) Jeremy Marek, Photo by Bruce Weber, Detroit, 2006. (R) Kate Moss and Jeremy Marek, Photo by Bruce Weber, W Magazine, 2006.
The Heidelberg Project, Photo by Bruce Weber, 2006.