Lauri Lyons was born in the Bronx, New York. She earned a BFA in Media Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1993. From 1993 to 1998, Lyons worked as a freelance Photo Editor for Magnum Photos, The Source, B.E.T, and Essence Magazine. During that time she also worked as a photo assistant for Bruce Davidson and National Geographic photographer David Alan Harvey.
She has produced and photographed essays in Brazil, Europe, Mexico, West Africa, and the United States. Her photographs and essays have appeared in such publications as Stern, Trace, The Fader, Vibe, and The London Observer. In 2003 Lauri Lyons became the first Black woman to shoot the cover of Fortune magazine.
Her advertising clients include Pepsi and McDonald's. Lauri Lyons exhibition resume includes The International Center of Photography, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Civil Rights Museum. Flag: An American Story is her first published monograph (Vision On 2001) followed by Flag International (2008).
From 2000 to present, Lauri Lyons has served as a faculty member for the International Center of Photography, Rhode Island School of Design and as the Director of Photography for the Leave Out Violence youth program. In 2006 she created the artist development lecture series Strategies of Successful Photographers. Lauri Lyons is also a recipient of the Sacatar Fellowship.
In 2006 Lauri Lyons became the first Black female photographer to be signed to Getty Images. Her photography is also commercially represented by Corbis Sygma. In the Frame is an award winning documentary short about her life and work as a photographer.