We are celebrating the work of Essex-based documentary photographer Ed Gold in a major exhibition.
Entitled Ed Gold: Other Worlds, the presentation is made up a hundred photographs taken over a period spanning almost thirty years. These have been selected from Gold’s personal archive, and the various bodies of work chosen represent his ongoing interest in isolated communities (both geographic and social): Patagonia, Country Folk (Essex, Wales & Scotland), Afghanistan Bed Spaces, Positive Futures, and Nowitna, Alaska.
In the spirit of Walker Evans and James Agee’s ground-breaking text and photo work, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, 1941, Gold embeds himself in the communities he records, living with them for up to three years, sharing their experiences and forming close relationships with those he portrays.
For example, between 2010 and 2011 Gold lived amongst the soldiers of the Second Battalion Parachute Regiment (2 Para), both at their base in Colchester and on operational duty in Afghanistan. During this time, Gold wore a uniform and integrated fully with the troops, carrying his camera instead of a weapon while accompanying the soldiers on daily patrols, and capturing images that would later form the series Afghanistan Bed Spaces (2011).
The Nowitna series records Gold’s ongoing experiences living in Alaska’s Arctic region, where he has resided intermittently for more than eight years from 2009. Earlier this year he spent three weeks living with the Atchley family, who live in one of the remotest parts of the state. Gold has since described the difficulties he experienced, and to help him cope with those he wrote 90,000 words documenting his daily life. A selection of these photographs and accompanying diary entries will be displayed at Firstsite.
The written word is an integral component of Gold’s photographic practice. He writes down conversations he has in the community, occasionally using a recording device to capture the words more fully. He also keeps a diary of his own daily reflections. At the end of a project, this writing is condensed and appears alongside each of the photographs, offering a further narrative and a deeper, more intimate engagement with the subjects than the images alone can provide.
The exhibition’s first work, a single photograph from the Patagonia series taken in 2008, is illustrative. A vast print stretching the height of the gallery’s six-metre wall, it depicts a man standing in a derelict but lived-in dwelling, in front of an open fireplace. In the mid-1800s, Welsh nationalists began to migrate to the province of Chubut, in Patagonia, Argentina, in order to protect their native Welsh culture and language. The man depicted is a current resident of this Welsh enclave in South America, with the portrait which rests upon the mantelpiece providing a link to this settlement’s committed ancestors. Exhibited beside this work will be an audio soundtrack of the interviews Gold conducted with members of the Welsh Patagonian community, in both Welsh and Castellano; similarly there will be a soundtrack for the Atchley family. A copy of the book on the Patagonia series published by the internationally-renowned book designer and typographer, David Jury, will also be on display.
Country Folk (Essex, Wales & Scotland) is an amalgamation of three bodies of work, and includes some of Gold’s earliest photographs – the Essex images that date from 1988. Many of these depict men and women who work on the land – as Gold did himself while taking these photos – capturing a way of life little changed in 100 years. Meanwhile, the Positive Futures images reveal people and communities that are ‘off-grid’, celebrating those who have eschewed conventional society.
About Ed Gold (b.1969, London):
A self-taught photographer, Ed Gold began documenting people and communities whilst working as a farm labourer in Essex in the 1980s. He holds a B/TEC National Diploma in Graphic Design from the Colchester Institute, a BA Hons in Design from the Colchester Institute, and an MA in Interactive Multimedia from Central Saint Martins. In 2001, Gold began taking photographs full-time, and has since been ‘homeless,’ choosing to forego a home base and instead live amongst some of the most unique and isolated societies on the planet. Communities that Gold has documented include Welsh Patagonians, the Inuit and Athabascan peoples, a family that lives in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, and the British and American military. His work has often featured on the BBC.