Ahead of his first international solo show, the photographer behind popular YouTube channel Negative Feedback shares his story and the process behind his latest body of work
Last year, George Muncey finally made it to the US. At last, he thought, “I would be able to make the photographs I had always wanted to” – images taken on the road, inspired by photographers like Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld and Alec Soth. “But I came back and found there was no depth to the photos, other than that they reminded me of the ones that my favourite photographers had taken.”
It was this initial disappointment that kickstarted Muncey’s latest project, Lonely Cloud, an ongoing survey of the British isles, which will be exhibited for the first time at Periphery Space in Gorey, Ireland, next month. The project takes its name from William Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, and is intended to parallel the feeling of floating in solitude, and being disconnected from the place that you came from.
Raised in Basingstoke, southern England, Muncey’s entry into photography was unique. The 23-year-old never studied the subject at school or university, instead he made a name for himself via Negative Feedback, a YouTube channel he set up in 2016. The platform, on which he posts camera reviews, tutorials and interviews with photographers, now has over 185,000 subscribers.
“I didn’t feel like I needed to go to photography school,” says Muncey, who acquired the basis of his technical skill from assisting and editing at a photography studio during his teenage years. After completing a BTEC in film, followed by a short three-week spell of studying it at university, Muncey decided to abandon his studies and taught himself how to use cameras and photoshop through online tutorials. However, surprisingly, he found that there was very little content about photography that was visually engaging. “I wanted to make the kinds of videos that I would want to watch,” he explains.
Off the back of the success of Negative Feedback, Muncey’s photographic career has taken off. Last year, he had his first solo show at theprintspace in The Photographer’s Gallery in London. . And he secured his upcoming exhibition Lonely Cloud at Periphery Space in Ireland, in part, because the art school attached to the space uses his videos in their photography classes.
The Lonely Cloud exhibition is comprised of a selection of images from Muncey’s previous project about his hometown in Basingstoke, UK, alongside newer work made during road trips across the country. Every image was shot on 8×10 film and the show includes portraits of both friends and strangers, along with landscapes depicting the suburban towns scattered across the edges of Britain’s motorways. Shown together, the images seek to navigate Muncey’s own identity, and his relationship with his own country during this turbulent time for politics.
But while the American road has been, and still is, a muse to many photographers, Britain’s stretches of grey motorway and often-rainy A-roads do not have the same romantic appeal. “No one has ever said ‘I really want to drive to Bognor Regis’,” laughs Muncey. “Very few UK-based roadtrip photographs exist. I think it’s because it’s expensive, and it’s not idealistic.”
“My photographs aren’t necessarily beautiful, but they’re not negative either. I think they’re unbiased,” says Muncey. “Some of the main questions ended up being why can’t I be proud of being from here? Why is that not okay, in this current age, to just be happy about where you’re from?”
Part of the appeal of Muncey’s photography is how he frames and captures people, infrastructures, and landscapes, in a way that is neither patronising nor glorifying. Through a considered approach, he presents a country that is, despite social and political uncertainties, okay to be proud of. “I do like Britain a lot,” he says, “more than I did when I started taking these photographs”.
Lonely Cloud by George Muncey will be exhibited at Periphery Space in Gorey, Ireland, from 19 July to09 August 2019.
Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.