Leni Sinclair’s camera captured the music scene of Detroit in the ‘60s and ‘70s even as she played a seminal role in the growing countercultural movement in Southeast Michigan.
Sinclair was born in Königsberg, East Germany, and escaped to West Germany three years before the Berlin Wall was erected. She was 18 when she emigrated to America in 1959, settling with relatives in Detroit.
Sinclair photographed musicians from John Coltrane and the MC5 to Iggy Pop, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley and many, many more.
She and her then-husband, John Sinclair, helped to found the White Panther Party, later the Rainbow People’s Party. They fought against the Vietnam War and racism, and worked to legalize marijuana and reform the prison system.
Now Sinclair has been named the 2016 Kresge Eminent Artist. She becomes the eighth artist to receive the $50,000 award in recognition of her contributions to the art, culture, and people of Detroit.