Motor City Underground is a comprehensive document of the art, rock and roll, and political scenes of late 1960s Detroit. The images are arranged in a loose chronology, including events and subjects such as the March on Washington of 1963, and various performances and artists' events in and around Wayne State University in Detroit; continuing on to the Detroit Artists Workshop, John Sinclair's activities with jazz musicians and poets, events in Berkeley, Detroit and Ann Arbor; early concerts with the MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges in the Grande Ballroom; anti-war protests, Detroit Uprising and the Black Panthers; spectacular documentation of the influential performance style of the MC5; John Sinclair's various arrests for marijuana possession and the police response to social protest; the Trans-Love Commune in Detroit and Ann Arbor; large-scale outdoor concerts in Detroit and elsewhere; Leni Sinclair's ongoing documentation of Sun Ra, and other luminaries in jazz, blues and rock and roll.
A self-taught photographer, Leni Sinclair emigrated to the US from East Germany in 1959; in 1964 she met poet, jazz critic and manager of the MC5, John Sinclair. The two married the same year and embarked on a decade of political activism, first founding the Artist's Workshop, a network of communal houses and performance spaces which evolved into the Trans-Love Energies Commune. The following year the Sinclairs founded the White Panther party in solidarity with the Black Panthers. The couple divorced in 1977; Leni has continued to practice photography and lives in Detroit.