A pair of former Detroiters who emigrated from the City of Motors to the Big Apple, photographer Jenny Risher and fashion icon Veronica Webb, could not be swayed from their hometown pride. At a 2010 convention in NYC a conversation between the two caused Risher to think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if someone made a book on all the amazing people who hail from Detroit?”
It may have taken almost three years, but Jenny Risher’s book Heart Soul Detroit: Conversations on the Motor City is now here and brought to us by Royal Oak-based publisher Momentum Books.
Risher, along with her editor Matt Lee, have collected interviews from 51 successful and interesting Detroiters who are definitely not shy about their love for this city. The book contains color portraiture and interview transcripts and follows Risher relocating her business from Gotham (OK, I really meant New York) to Detroit after 15 years of success there. She wanted to raise her children closer to her family and to breathe in the areas creative energy … and hopefully breathe out some of her own here.
The book’s reach is a wide one gathering interviews from many areas in society from athletes like Nicklas Lidström, Barry Sanders, Al Kaline and Tommy Hearns to musicians like Smokey Robinson, Don Was, Jack White, Martha Reeves and Eminem, who appears on the cover. The world of business is also featured with the likes of Berry Gordy, Lee Iacocca and Bill Ford, Jr., and, of course, the previously mentioned Ms. Webb and others.
One of Risher’s most memorable photo shoots was Berry Gordy’s. She traveled to Beverly Hills to meet the Motown founder and was impressed by his energy and charisma. “It’s no wonder all these people worked so hard for him during their careers and dedicated everything to him,” she says. “It was hard for me to not be overcome with emotion. I just had to keep it together and take the picture.”
The book is hardly the only thing to hit Detroit from Risher. To coincide with the release there will be a gallery showing of portrait-sized versions of the books photos. The photos will include inscription of quotes from the subjects that reflect why they care about the Motor City. The exhibition will be at the Center Galleries in the Manoogian Visual Resource Center at the College for Creative Studies, which is Risher’s alma mater. The exhibition will be open January 25 and run through March 2. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission to the CCS show is free.
After that the show will be packed up and sent to Detroit Historical Museum at 5401 Woodward Ave., where it will then again be on display from July 13 through September 29.
The first night of the exhibit will also act as the official book release party. The party will include words about the book and a performance by Motown mainstay Martha Reeves from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm on January 25. It is also expected that other subjects from the book will speak such as Mel Farr, Allee Willis and Bill Bonds. The book release party will be at Center Galleries, 301 Frederick Douglass in Detroit.
“I love this line from Jerry Bruckheimer’s interview,” Risher says. “It pretty much sums up everything for me: ‘The harder you work, the luckier you get.’ Everyone featured in the book came from humble beginnings and became successful through hard work, passion, dedication, and backbone. To me this is the essence of the spirit of Detroit.”
A small number of books will be available at the release party.
Here’s a little background on Risher. She grew up in Mount Clemens and earned a BFA in photography at what was then The Center for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit in 1997. She moved to New York in 1998 and apprenticed with photography masters Patrick Demarchelier and Francesco Scavullo before striking out on her own to shoot for national publications and internationally known brand names. Her photographs have been published in The New York Times and in Vanity Fair, Noise, Marie Claire, Curve, Parents, Redbook, Hour Detroit and Men’s Health magazines. Her advertising clients include DKNY, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Jack Spade, Hanes Corporation, Shiseido Cosmetics, Victoria’s Secret, Verizon, and Kenneth Cole Productions.
She conceived Heart Soul Detroit as a personal project, a creative outlet unconstrained by commercial considerations. Beginning with apparel designers Varvatos and Anna Sui and Reeves, Risher gained the confidence and participation of dozens of famous Detroiters, who shared private reflections and memories of their lives here.
Heart Soul Detroit: Conversations on the Motor City is her first book. Jenny, her husband and two sons recently relocated back to metro Detroit to be near family; they currently reside in Macomb Township.
Heart Soul Detroit writer and editor Matt Lee was born and raised in the western suburbs of Detroit. He attended Detroit Catholic Central High School and graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, before returning home to work as an editor at Hour Detroit magazine from 1994-2004. There he had the pleasure of meeting, interviewing and writing about dozens of fascinating Detroiters, including several featured in Heart Soul Detroit. He now lives in Chicago, where he edits a general-interest men’s magazine.