Lauri Lyons (https://www.laurilyons.com/) was born in the Bronx, New York and traveled globally with her military family. She earned a BFA in Media Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. For many years Lauri worked as a Photo Editor for several national magazines and organizations including Essence, B.E.T., The Source, and Magnum Photos. Since branching out on her own as a photographer, Lauri’s photographic range has enabled her to shoot celebrity portraits, ad campaigns and documentaries. She has worked in Africa, Australia, Brazil, Europe, Mexico and the United States. Her photographs have appeared in such publications as The London Observer, Stern, The Fader and Art Forum. She is the first Black woman to shoot the cover of Fortune magazine. Lauri is the author of two acclaimed books; Flag: An American Story (2001) and Flag International (2008). She was the commissioned portrait photographer for the book INSPIRATION: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World (2012). Lauri is the Executive Director of the Rest With Honor (https://www.restwithhonorproject.org/) not-for-profit organization focused on social justice and cultural preservation. She is also the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the online publication Nomads Magazine. She is also a contributing writer for The Huffington Post. Today Lauri’s artistic practice has expanded to include videos, sculptures and public art installations. Her exhibition resume includes The Walker Art Center, Brooklyn Museum of Art and The International Center of Photography. In the Frame is an award-winning documentary about her life and work as an artist. Lauri is the recipient of the Sacatar Fellowship and has served as a faculty member and guest lecturer for several educational institutions such as the International Center of Photography, New School for Social Research and the Rhode Island School of Design.
Scheduled to Teach
LACP Interviews Lauri Lyons
LACP asks Lauri Lyons ten questions about her background, career in and beliefs about photography.
Los Angeles Center of Photography: What kind of photographer are you?
Lauri Lyons: I shoot a lot of environmental portraits, documentary work, and celebrity portraits.
LACP: How long have you been shooting?
LL: I always took photographs as a child, but decided to major in photography while in college. I have now been shooting for over 20 years.
LACP: Where did you get your training?
LL:I earned a BFA in Media Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, completed a lot of internships, and also assisted photographers.
LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?
LL: During my college Photo One class I was exposed to documentary photography and immediately knew I wanted to devote my life to being a first hand witness to what is going on in the world and capture the stories.
LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?
LL: There have definitely been times when I thought ” I don’t like this anymore. I need to do something else.”. Every industry has its pros and cons. I think the key to longevity is your ability to adapt. Early in my career I worked at Magnum Photos. During my time there, I met photographers that were icons in the business but were experiencing quiet times in their careers, and then rebounded back on top again. What I learned was a long career has ebbs and flows. I realized versatility would be the key for riding the ups and downs. I decided to gain skills and experience being a photo editor, teacher, publisher, journalist, producer, author, and photographer. All of these experiences helped me evolve and expand my opportunities.
LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?
LL: I have sacrificed an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources by being a photographer. I’ve had a very long and interesting career with lots of exciting moments, but I’ve also had to spend an enormous amount of time in darkrooms, media labs, hotels, and dragging around equipment. The work effort is real.
LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?
LL: Being a photographer has brought a lot of adventures into my life. I have traveled all over the world, met some of the most interesting people on the planet, and learned a lot of life lessons along the way. Most importantly, I have been able to explore many of my curiosities in a creative way.
LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?
LL: I am teaching the Social Justice x Media class. At this time we are experiencing a turbulent and chaotic culture shift that is reshaping our society. We have lots of cameras, issues, and platforms. With that freedom comes responsibility and civic engagement. My class examines the conscious and subconscious messages we are creating, sharing, and believing.
LACP: What do you love most about teaching?
LL: Teaching allows me to do a deep dive into purpose, technique, interpretation, process, and storytelling. It always fascinates me how people can sign up for a class with basically no knowledge about a subject and a few weeks later can become proficient, creative, and confident with a new skill set. Our capacity to learn and grow never ends.
LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?
LL: Learn your craft! Explore your curiosities, reach out to the people who inspire you, and aim to be original.