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Interview with Celebrity Photographer, Lauri Lyons for the project INSPIRATION: Portraits of Black Women Changing Our World

Photographer Lauri Lyons has not only broken barriers as the first black woman to shoot the cover of Fortune Magazine, but she may be embarking on a venture to intercept the way black women are being portrayed throughout media, in introducing the exhibit INSPIRATION: Portraits of Black Women Changing Our World. The proposed exhibit plans to launch a domestic and international tour which would  depict the personal lives and history of 30 prominent black women leaders today. The actual  showing will display museum quality photos and bios of these women and plans to solicit to museums, galleries, universities, and public institutions. The project follows the March 2012 release of the coffee book, INSPIRATION: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World which is attributed by the authors Crystal McCrary and Nathan Hale Williams.
INSPIRATION: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World is a spin off of the former book I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women who Changed America, originally published in 1989 by Pulitzer prize winning photographer, Brian Lanker which also contributed an exhibit and nationwide tour. The compelling series was shaped around influential black women who were game-changers in their day, like Rosa Parks, Gwendolyn Brooks and Shirley Chisholm. In a time when some could have perceived that very few black women had held significant roles, Lanker was able to compile a list of 75 compelling candidates in the arts, politics, entertainment and academia field.

A 21st century version of the project comes in key timing to counter some of the stereotypes regarding black women disseminated throughout television and media. The INSPIRATION book and exhibit remedies the antic by championing inspirational warrior women, enriched with exemplary talents who are key players in their fields.

Just like the elder project, it encompasses several categories of  black women trailblazers, who are either widely recognized or obscured from media such as Former United States Ambassador to the Bahamas Nicole Avant, and prominent ophthalmologist Dr. Patricia Bath, a woman-first, ophthalmologist and inventor. INSPIRATION furthers examine these subjects and even poses something intimate and telling regarding celebrity women such as Venus Williams, Misty Copeland and Laila Ali.

According to Lyons, the objective for INSPIRATIONS is to make the life and work of prominent women figures tangible and realistic for women of color to obtain. Lauri Lyons discloses a humbling encounter with the legendary singer Patti LaBelle who made her feel welcomed in her home.

Her home feels like a real person’s home —you can tell she decorated it. It had a very warm feeling and it was beautifully done. It was like going to your favorite aunts house. She had all this food set out for us. There was catfish, collard greens and all this soul food,” says Lauri.

The INSPIRATIONS project is planning a global  traveling exhibit which is quite different than Lanker’s 1990’s version. His tour at the time was relegated to the states.

In spite of the honorable mission and vision, Lyon’s project joins the many innovations with women of color at the center that face barriers such as lack of seed money to get started.

When the INSPIRATIONS’ Kickstarter campaign launched in 2013, it was highly dependent on the support of the public to launch its tour. Yet, the campaign did not reap the necessary funds to launch the exhibit.

Revised 1/16/2019


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Julene Allen