Memphis, Tennessee is a misunderstood city. It is often overshadowed by nearby Nashville and the downstream destination of New Orleans. When people picture Memphis, often they only see the lights of Beale Street and Elvis’s former stomping grounds. Beneath that touristic veneer is a city that proudly celebrates its heritage while struggling to survive.08_Bellinger_DSC_5355_cozybro_252sum

There are the musicians who have spent decades honing their craft, playing in clubs and bars nearly every night.

There are the barbecue pitmasters who practice a craft passed down from generation to generation.

There are the local dives that no Beale Street tourist would venture to, and whose patrons would never venture to Beale Street.

These are the people of Memphis, the people whose drive, whose passion, we have captured in our photographs. They live and work in a city full of rundown buildings, decaying autocentric infrastructure, and abandoned developments. Their hands may be dirty from work, and they may stay up too late playing music, but if you don’t judge them, they won’t judge you.

We learned this firsthand. The photos in this portfolio were taken during an extended stay in Memphis, during which we ate with the locals, drank with them, and stayed up too late nearly every night with them. The more we got to know them, the more of their city they showed us. This is Memphis, seen from the inside, and shot with a pair of ever-ready DSLRs.

More photos and essays from our time in Memphis here.

More on Eric Gales, his music, and tour dates at

– Dan Meade and Rob Bellinger
Published: March 13, 2014