Through the portraits of others, photographer tells her own story

Photographer Amurri Lauren’s first gallery show opened Feb. 5.

A look into Gravy Studios during the opening of photographer Amurri Lauren's exhibit "A Million Stories" Friday Feb. 5. | KHANYA BRANN TTN

When photographer Amurri Lauren’s fans on social media assume she’s a male, she isn’t surprised anymore—only disturbed.

“Men, for years, have always been on the frontline of doing the footwork in photography,” Lauren said. “It is history. We need to break out of that shell.”

Clothed in a Philadelphia 76ers flat-brim hat and a sweatshirt reading, “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE,” Lauren said she never appears in her own photos because she wants to “be taken seriously.”

“I do not need to put myself in the middle of my work,” Lauren said.  “I can run with the best of them. I rub shoulders with the best of the best, male and female.”

Despite not appearing in her work, Lauren said her journey is displayed through her photographs, and every piece includes an aspect of herself. Lauren’s work mainly features individuals in an urban setting dressed in “anything that has some type of character or wear to it,” along with many musical artists.

Lauren’s first gallery show, “A Million Stories,” opened Feb. 5 at Gravy Studio & Gallery and will remain open until the end of the month. The show features her portraiture of well-known musicians like Future, G-Eazy and Kendrick Lamar, as well as individuals Lauren encountered out in the city’s streets.

Lauren said she’s pretty much met “everybody except for Michael Jackson and Prince.”

“You get the sense that these are all different people in a moment having an experience,” said Kate Madara, who attended the show’s opening. “You get a story from each single one, and I love the way they play together.”

“It really captures the everyday in Philly,” added Jeanette Wintjen, another attendee. “You really get a sense of what it feels like to walk through Philadelphia.”

Katie Tackman, the primary curator of “A Million Stories,” met Lauren while working at West Elm, a furniture store in Center City.  After printing one of Lauren’s pieces, Tackman was instantly drawn to Lauren’s work and continued to follow it throughout the year.

“I was really impressed by how she has grown, and has gone really hard with getting her work out there, and getting jobs,” Tackman said.  “[Lauren is] always doing something new. It’s really impressive.”

Although Tackman was only able to observe Lauren’s progression over the past year, Lauren’s work has been constantly evolving since she decided to pursue photography in 2010.  While attending The Art Institute of Philadelphia for fashion marketing, Lauren started Young Couture Magazine, an urban culture and fashion publication.  Although she didn’t photograph for the magazine at the time, Lauren found a passion for the industry.

During the conception of the magazine, Lauren was also working as internal security for Comcast, and ultimately earned a space for the launch party due to her positive employee record.

“It was grand, it was beautiful, it was like ‘Whoa,’ and that kind of put me on the scene for my city,” Lauren said. “It’s definitely in the history books, that’s for sure.”

Although the launch party for Young Couture was a success, Lauren believes that the magazine itself never came to its full fruition.  Lauren does, however, feel that it played a large role in her career as a photographer.

“It wasn’t organized, or how it should be, but it was beautiful,” Lauren said. “I consider it a lesson, a starting point for where I am today, and where I’m going to be in the future.”

For Lauren, that future is continuing to shoot subjects and cover topics people don’t usually see from female photographers. Her work, she hopes, will begin to break down those barriers—but it won’t be easy.

“Do I have to work as hard, or harder than you?” Lauren said. “Do I have to make my images look like yours? So, I just put my best foot forward and do what I feel, and what I do happens to look as good as theirs.”

Jenny Stein can be reached at

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