Darren Harper

I've personally been on a fitness journey that has led me to try new ways of keeping healthy. If you've ever been to New Orleans before, you know our food is sinfully delicious and incredibly fattening, which led me to Get Up N Ride, a weekly event where tons of people get together and ride 10 miles through out the heart of NOLA. During one of our rest stops, I saw this bearded guy taking pictures.

As a photographer by trade, I tend to meet tons of other shooters out and about, so I approached him and struck up a conversation aboutphotography. Living in New Orleans, a city that is steeped in rich culture, you meet all kinds of souls, and there isn't a shortage of the eclectic creatives and down to earth people with good vibes. Darren definitely fits in this category.

Working in the Energy Sector as Industrial Quality Control Inspector, his passion lies in making music and helping others. Inspired by authenticity, experiences and genuine people, he loves learning, sharing and experiencing new things. Check out what he has to say below!

BMWB: What is your beard regime?
Darren: I don't cut it. Done. I grew it as a test of will for the summer. I promised I wouldn't cut my hair or beard until I finished my creative projects this summer. Needless to say I still have a beard.

BMWB: What are the top five things on your bucket list?

Darren: 1. Visit Africa
2. Skydive
3. Complete an album and perform it
4. Own my own business
5. Learn to play piano


BMWB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Darren: Older...lol. Married and spending time with my family. Building a business that allows me to travel, teach and live comfortably being creative. Living who knows where. Looking back on the past 5, being thankful and looking forward to the next.


BMWB: What do you feel about the social climate of black men in America?
Darren: It's mixed. I have these debates with my friends all the time, so I'll try to make this response as simple as possible, but I overthink so that probably won't happen anyway.  
We're in uncharted territory in a sense. While a lot of the social pressures and systemic traps are still as relevant as any other time, the world and people are a lot more connected and information is freely shared more easily than has ever been possible. I think my generation is the first to really have some of the opportunities we have to make our own path to independence. Many of us have been programmed to do nothing but self-sabotage for so long for a number of reasons. Pick a few if you'd like. A large majority of our main influences and images of black men were images and characters and depictions of black men/ourselves in a way that's rarely viewed as positive. A black man has to always be mindful of being viewed as a threat and/or inferior on many levels. What does that do to your self-esteem? As a person? As a man? What I believe is we now have an opportunity to begin to reveal and retell our history from our perspective, and really give ourselves and future black men a chance to approach the world knowing what we have already accomplished, proud of that history and seeking to build on it. Just my thoughts though...


BMWB: What are your hobbies?
Darren: They keep changing. Music definitely whenever I have a chance. I try to exercise regularly and I've traveled a good bit the last few years. Since I've been back in N.O. though, I'm a bicycle junkie.


BMWB: What are your greatest strengths?
Darren: The people in my life. I am what I am because of their love, sacrifices, insight, perspective and efforts. They've all either been or continue to be what keeps my moving in the right direction.


BMWB: What are you most proud of?
Darren: I'm able to give. I've been extremely blessed and that's only because of all the people who have helped, pushed, prayed, loved and whatever else along the way to here. So I'm thankful that at this point, I'm in a position to just try to pay everything I can forward to someone else.

BMWB: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?

Darren:

1. No one owes you anything.
2. Perception is reality.
3. Faith without works is dead.
4. You can learn something from everyone.
5. What's done in the dark will come to the light.
6. You give what you get.
7. Before 25 judged on potential, after 25 judged on accomplishments.

BMWB: Tell us something about yourself, in your own words.
Darren: At this point in my life, I can only be grateful for where I am. I've been blessed beyond measure. I'm not a religious person by any means, so this isn't denominational, it is what it is. Regardless of where I am now I've spent a lot of my life trying to figure out who I am, where I fit in and what I needed to do to be viewed the way people expected to view me - if that makes sense. It's affected every part of my world, trying to bend and mold myself to a constantly changing pressure of external validation. I still struggle with it. Somewhere along the way though, it clicked. It'd never come, and if it did, it'd never last. I'd never be able to say I did anything because it was for me, or because I really wanted to because I was crippled by opinions. I couldn't create, or be honest, or love, or feel anything genuinely without fear of how it would be perceived by people who usually didn't understand me anyway. I filtered myself, and filtered me kinda sucks. So I guess "insert higher power" found a way to force me out of my comfort zone. That kinda sucked too, during at least, but I learned to trust my process to a point where I had to face the fact I was my biggest weakness. It wasn't external, or my childhood, or circumstances, it was my decisions and fears that had and would continue to hold me back. Now I try to consciously make an effort to trust me a little more; be more real with myself and a little more vulnerable, which made me a little braver and in turn, I've found more people that connect with and respect Darren as is than ever before. I give an authentic me and usually I get to connect with the same, which is beautiful to me. You give what you get.  I'm just trying to be more consistent in that. There's still all of the other negative and whatever still out there, but its just background noise to me now. If people don't like you as you are, fuck em. That still is what it is too. We can only control what we can control, I just want to live my life as best I can and continue to improve that standard. The rest will take care of itself.

Want to follow Darren on Social Media? Check him out on instagram: @geaux_harp. You can also listen to his music here.

Photography by XOXO Quinntographer