VIProfile: Darren Lykes

An Artist's Eye

Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography by Kristina Only.

A native of Atwood, Tennessee, Darren Lykes has always had an artist’s eye. When he was merely 17 years old, his parents, Vivian and Bernard, gave their talented son a camera as a way for him to explore his creativity. Darren’s parents were not aware they had ignited a passion within their son that would soon be transformed into a lifelong dream and his future profession.

For several years Darren worked alongside experienced artists within the industry before taking his craft to the next level. In 2009, Darren Lykes Photography was born. In the short time since its formation, Darren Lykes Photography has exceeded initial growth projections.

Along with operating this thriving business, Darren has achieved numerous professional accomplishments. Darren is the official photographer for the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant and is a contributing photographer for At Home Memphis Mid-South Magazine. He has been featured as a food stylist and freelance photographer for The Jackson Sun, and he was featured in 301 Magazine as one of the “Top Pros to Know.” In 2015 Darren was selected for The Jackson Sun’s 2015 Class of Forty Under 40.

Outside of his profession, Darren is known to be a true servant leader within the community. His extensive volunteer work includes the following: Jackson Downtown Development Corporation (JDDC): past board member; chairperson of the Promotions Committee; Co-chairperson for three years of The Gold Room Affair; Co-Chairperson, The Grand Affair; and past Co-Chairperson of Wine Down the Alley/Wine Walk.

In addition, Darren has had several positions with the Downtown Dogs Group: board member and co-chairperson, Bone Appetit and Bone Appetit Two.

Other volunteer projects include the following: board member, Ayers Children’s Medical Center; photographer for the President’s Official College Portrait at Lane College; and event coordinator of Lane’s Founder’s Day Scholarship Dinner; past board member, Wo/Men’s Resource and Rape Assistance Program (WRAP); serves on the Season of Unity Coalition of the City of Jackson and he is a committee member of the city’s International Food & Art Festival; past board member and 2013 Social Chair of the Leadership Jackson Alumni Association; co-emcee of the American Cancer Society; past board member, Lambuth Area Neighborhood Association (LANA); and a youth mentor of the “Keep My Hood Good” Community Campaign.

VIP: Why do you think downtown Jackson is important to the lifeblood of our city?
Darren Lykes:
I think it is important because downtown is the heart of any city and it’s definitely the heart of Jackson. I love the term you use—center city. When our downtown is healthy and people are walking, eating, working out downtown or working downtown, it’s great for any community, especially ours.

VIP: What are the roles you play in the development of downtown Jackson?
I have been chairman of the promotions committee of Jackson Downtown Development Corporation (JDDC) for four years and I’m still very active on that committee. I just finished the Gold Room Affair recently, and it was a great success. JDDC has held three Gold Room Affairs in the Gold Room of the New Southern Hotel. We have had a variety of entertainment ranging from a swing orchestra to an R&B jazz band that I discovered at Sambuca, a great restaurant in The Gulch in Nashville.

VIP: What excites you the most about what is happening in downtown Jackson?
It’s really the momentum. All of the things that are going on—the new projects and the restaurants. Downtown has its own heartbeat. We have to keep that going. I love the community feel that we have downtown. I travel a lot and I always go to their downtown. I get so excited and think we’re going to do this in Jackson. I love hearing people say ‘I don’t feel like I’m in Jackson’ when they are downtown. I wish people would say ‘This IS Jackson.’ Let’s tell other people about Jackson!

VIP: What would you like to see downtown that is not here now?
I’m a complete foodie. I would like more restaurants, especially diverse restaurants. Food brings people together. I would also like to see more art galleries. Art and music go so well together. Maybe we can bring back the Wine Down the Alley event, which brings people downtown.

VIP: What other downtown events are planned for this year?
The Downtown Dogs Group’s largest fundraiser is Bone Appetit. The first year we had a farm-to-table theme. The second year we held the event at The Ballpark at Jackson. The third year the event was at the AMP. I would like to bring the event back to the Farmers’ Market under the pavilion. My vision is to have a round stage built in the center with a grand piano on it. Lauren Pritchard, who lives in New York and L.A., will be our entertainer. The event, which will be held on October 15 and will feature regional chefs, will be called An Evening with Lauren Pritchard.

Recently I was an event consultant for a reception at Lane College for Danny Glover, Oscar award winner.

VIP: Often I see you, especially on weekends, shooting photos downtown. Is downtown a good backdrop for photographs?
Downtown is a great backdrop and is definitely my favorite backdrop in the city because of the architecture. I’m not always big on making sure that the background is visible, but I love texture and I love color and I can find such diversity in our downtown.

VIP: Would you like to live downtown? If so, where and what type of residence? An apartment, condo or a house?
It’s weird. I love my house in Midtown in the L.A.N.A. district. In a perfect world I would love to have a really cool loft apartment, but I also love being in an older home.

VIP: What are your favorite places to go downtown?
Among my favorite places is Miss Ollie’s to have a cocktail (I love their chocolate martini and their pear martini, but I also love a Jack and Diet Coke, my go-to drink). And I love Chandelier, which is the best place to have dinner and Sunday brunch. I visit New York City a lot and I love to go to Sunday brunch there. Now we have that option in Jackson.

VIP: Do you often travel out of state to shoot pageants? How did you get into pageant photography?
I travel mostly in the state of Tennessee. When I worked at Moore Studio I shot the Miss Tennessee Pageant and the official Miss Tennessee portrait. When I left Moore Studio, I went to New York City, cleared my heard and breathed and came back to Jackson and thought it was time to go to work.

The Miss Tennessee Pageant officials asked me if I wanted to continue shooting the pageant held every June in Jackson. In my studio I get a lot of contestants of all ages who come here for head shots. I have a hair and makeup artist in my home studio.

VIP: What accomplishments make you the most proud?
I’m just 30 years old. I have been in photography since I was 18 years old. When I first started photography I was doing senior pictures of kids in high school, and I would never tell anyone my age because I was just two years older than my clients!

VIP: What are your hobbies?
At present I’m really into cycling. I do this at least 5 times a week. I ride about 6 am alone or in a group. We ride about 15 miles a day. I’m trying to get up to more miles. I’m really a homebody because I enjoy entertaining, cooking at home and having people in my home. I’m truly a people person. What makes me happy is music. I’m very eclectic in what I like. I enjoy music that is really easy on the ears. I love the piano and I love good singers. When friends are in my home, I always have music playing or when I’m by myself I’m playing music.

VIP: When you look down the road, what do you see yourself doing in the next 10 years?
I’ll be 40 years old. I would say that I will still be doing photography, still growing my business, still helping in my community, and traveling more with my job. I would love to travel more with my work. I’m hoping the opportunity will come for me to do that.  

What to Know
Darren Lykes Photography & Event Consultant
(731) 343-1906
Facebook: Darren Lykes Photography