Whether working separately or together on their Manic American project, Dan Meade and Rob Bellinger have spent most of the last eighteen years trying to discern what it means to be an American. This has been a cross-platform and participatory study: they have traveled tens of thousands of miles, written essays, shot documentary photographs and videos, performed original music, and slow-smoked barbecue for hundreds.

But this study started with, and remains grounded in, photography. Originating as a cross between travel and street, the Manic American style aims to capture the essence of a person in their element. As Meade and Bellinger’s travels throughout the country expanded, common themes became more prevalent: workers exhibiting their innate dignity, natural landscapes bearing the mark of human hands, and the interaction between people and their environment.

From coast to coast, Meade and Bellinger have been capturing and reflecting the America they have discovered around them, taking special interest in those who defy cultural norms and create communities around their own values and beliefs. This vision of America is best represented by their work in Memphis, Tennessee.

Away from the economic turmoil of Detroit and the neurotic self-aggrandizement of New York, Memphis sits alone, unexamined, and largely left to its own devices. It is filled with old traditions, a diverse population, a relatively low cost of living, and a down-but-not-out economy. This combination of elements makes the city a fertile breeding ground for those willing to match creativity with labor.

The earliest iteration of Meade and Bellinger’s Memphis series placed on the juried wait list for the 2014 Review Santa Fe Festival by CENTER, in Santa Fe, NM. The following year, they hosted the June 2015 “Nights at the PRC” event at the Photographic Resource Center (Boston, MA), showing selections from Memphis and American Barbecue as they discussed the role of interaction in their work.

Their photographs have been included in the following juried exhibits and invitationals:

  • Bite: Food as Art, The Nave Gallery, Somerville, MA, 2015
  • There Is Something About How It Flows, Högkvarteret, Stockholm, Sweden, 2013
  • It’s A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, United Photo Industries, Brooklyn, NY, 2012
  • Feast Your Eyes, The New York Photo Festival, Brooklyn, NY, 2012
  • Audio/Visual, The New York Photo Festival, Brooklyn, NY, 2011
  • Capture Brooklyn, The New York Photo Festival, Brooklyn, NY, 2010

Their photographs have also appeared in magazines such as Geist and Capricious, on websites across America and the United Kingdom, and in the book Memphis Barbecue: A Succulent History of Smoke, Sauce and Soul by Craig David Meek (The History Press, 2014).

Contact: ManicAmerican [at] gmail [dot] com

–Dan Meade & Rob Bellinger
Updated: May 5, 2019

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