England

Photographs reveal quirky world of Country Folk

Men holding pigs Image copyright Ed Gold

Photographer Ed Gold's project Country Folk exhibition captures both the ordinary and the unusual aspects of life in rural and isolated communities.

The presentation, which opens Friday in Colchester, is made up of 100 photographs taken over a period spanning almost 30 years. These have been selected from Gold's personal archive, and the various bodies of work chosen represent his longstanding interest in isolated communities.

A man and a small boy Image copyright Ed Gold

Many of these images depict men and women in their place of work, whether that be on a farm, in a barbershop or performing a daredevil stunt at a county fair. Others show people enjoying their free time - hanging out with the goat after school, or gleefully riding a home-made trike.

Still more show those with literally no free time - soldiers at the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester where those leaving the Army after they've served their sentence are taught a trade. The centre's pig farm (pictured top in 1999) is one of the opportunities for the men.

Man pretending a camshaft is a flute Image copyright Ed Gold
Farmer looking tired Image copyright Ed Gold
A man riding a motorbike with an expression of glee Image copyright Ed Gold

Many of Gold's subjects have fascinating characters and background. Ivan, for example (pictured in 1999 holding a child's hand) rode a horse called Fly in the Russian cavalry at the onset of World War Two. He was soon captured and spent much of the war a prisoner in German concentration camps, where his job was removing bodies from gas chambers. Kept alive by guards due to his immense strength, aged 88 he could still lift two 56lbs (25kg) farm weights and bang them together above his head. After the war he settled in England.

Some, Gold has built up long-term relationships with. David (above middle, in 2006) worked on his smallholding in north Essex that he has owned since the 1960s. Gold says he's "one of the characters whose extraordinarily tough and comical life led me to take documentary photographs at the beginning of my career. I worked for this man on and off for almost 20 years. I credit him as being an influence in my interest of country people".

Two boys with a chicken and a goat Image copyright Ed Gold
Man feeding geese Image copyright Ed Gold

In Anglesey, Phil and Chris (above with goat in 1999) lived with their sister, mum and grandfather in Penysarn, a small village in the north-eastern corner of the island.

The area they live in has always traditionally been called "Y Fagddu", which translates as "The Black Hell" or "Inky". Their front door was always wide open - apart from night-time in winter - and the chickens and several goats roamed the house.

Dr Jones (above in 2004), was a psychiatrist who had 10 pet geese which he liked because he thought they were intelligent and each had their own personalities.

Huw (below right) was 14 when he took up a barbering apprenticeship. Pictured in 2004 aged 84, Huw still ran the shop with his son David (below left). They're shown exercising in the shop - Huw is doing dip exercises on the arm rests of the barber's chair, lifting himself clean off the floor whilst David does reverse push-ups against the waiting bench.

Two men in a barber shop Image copyright Ed Gold

Pictured below in 2002 are some ravers at Hendre Hall in Talybont, Bangor.

Gold says Hendre Hall, a Victorian Grade II-listed farm building, was one of the largest players on the arts and culture scene and a hotspot for great entertainment in north Wales - it's possible to get married, listen to live music, rave and have medieval banquets below the mountains of Snowdonia.

ravers Image copyright Ed gold
Motorbike wall Image copyright Ed Gold

And finally, some daredevilry - Ken Fox of the Ken Fox Wall of Death Troupe rides with a pillion passenger in 2004 at the Great Dorset Steam Fair. Ken and his family tour Britain performing on Indian motorcycles from 1920s America.

All photographs © Ed Gold. An exhibition of his work opens at Firstsite in Colchester on 17 June 2017.