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Vagabond with a vision; Photographer Ed Gold is homeless, unhealthy, makes just pounds 3,000 a year... and loves his life.


ED Gold is answering a calling. Relaxing al fresco one sunny afternoon on the Anglesey hillside he calls home, it's hard to refute the adopted North Walian's logic. A couple of sheep wander by, grazing the verdant summer pasture as the mid-September sun warms away our worries. We talk about why he doesn't want a nine-to-five job, and he says it would destroy his creative fire.

"I'd go totally mad. I wouldn't be able to produce work like this," he says, showing me examples of his black and white studies in community life.

All taken using old-fashioned film rather than digital technology ("If you're just going click, you're not capturing that perfect moment"), which have won him high regard in artistic circles, if not much money.

Ed lives a simple - some would say destitute - life, but as we sit on two chairs outside the dome-shaped tent he has pitched in a friend's field near Valley, it seems he has as much as he needs to get by.

He survives on the meagrepounds 3,000 a year he can make from his passion for taking pictures.

"I'm totally humbled by my experience of living like this," he says His work documenting sustainable living in Wales is now on show in Caernarfon Library, while his dedication to social realist photography has also won him sponsorship to equip himself for a trip to Patagonia at the turn of the year to capture its Welsh communities on film.

"When I was little I wanted to be a tramp," he tells me. "Most people think of them as being dirty, smelly and a nuisance but I think it's romantic."

Ed is recognised on Anglesey for riding around on his trike, the only transport he can afford.

He has recently recovered from a kidney infection, sleeps in his friend's barn when it's cold, cooks his food on a paraffin stove and suffers from cold sores through being exposed to the elements so much. His lower lip bleeds intermittently as we talk and he has to keep biting it to stem the flow.

However, his eyes light up as he talks passionately about his work and his beliefs, and his ramblings are punctuated with the laughter of a man who enjoys life.

"I'll put up with being slightly unwell, being poor, being dirty - I haven't had a bath for a week and I probably smell. But I'm doing what I want to do"I'm 36 now, making up for all my lost time as a farm labourer shovelling pig s**t."

Nicola Gibson - arts officer for Oriel MOn in Llangefni - is working with him to set up a high-profile show in the gallery in 2007.

"To me, photography should be about people, and I think Ed is probably one of the best photographers of people I've ever seen. Nothing is posed, everything is as it should be, and to me that's very good photography." Not everyone, however, is as enthusiastic about Ed's work. He believes ardently that he is doing something worthwhile, not just for his contemporaries to enjoy but also as a lasting archive of real life.

However, he is seething about the lack of support he perceives he is getting from bodies such as the Welsh Development Agency, who he has approached for funding. He got a pounds 1,800 grant by the Arts Council for Wales towards his Patagonia trip, but says even this was difficult"They said it was an indulgence," he says. "But art has always existed - people are fascinated by it. I think my photographs are good, and other people think they are good. I don't care that people think I'm slightly mad. I could live like this for the rest of my life."

He says this unwillingness to be tied down goes back to his childhood. His father worked in Istanbul, so Ed spent most of his time "living out of a suitcase" between Turkey and an Essex boarding school. Even today, he rarely sees his family - "When you go to boarding school you're not close to your family."

Despite this, Ed has his family's heraldic coat of arms tattooed on his chest. "It's a form of identity, standing out from the crowd In his 20s Ed went to art college in Colchester, moving to London to complete his Masters. His drifting lifestyle beginning when he had to sleep on a friend's floor during his final term.

It was after graduating in 1999 that he ended up in North Wales, when he headed to a camp site in Llanberis to visit a friend. He never left. Since then he has slept rough, lived in a static caravan in Penysarn and for three months rented a flat in Nebo - but there he says he couldn't sleep. He has taken pictures since he was 13, but never took it too seriously until he got his first exhibition at Canolfan Beaumaris in 2003. He has since shown exhibitions of studies in day-to-day life in Amlwch and Blaenau Ffestiniog and producedpostcards, in conjunction with Menter MOn, promoting Anglesey. He has spent most of this year touring Wales visiting sustainable, earth-friendly communities, and this summer was artist in residence at Coed Hills rural artspace in the valeof Glamorgan. He became fascinated with yurts - circular tents that can provide as much warmth and comfort as a brick-built house but are far less detrimental to the environment. He's even been given a pop-up yurt to taketo Patagonia by a camping company. "I'd always had an interest in low-impact living - treading lightly on the earth. The amount of energy it takes to build a house is horrendous." He is looking for a sailing boat to go to Patagonia: "I can't possibly fly, it would be so hypocritical."

But while Ed admits he sometimes struggles to feel his work is appreciated, what would he say to anybody who suggested he should get a day-to-day job to supplement his meagre income"After a day at work all you want to do is slop down in your chair, drink beer and watch television - I haven't drunk or smoked since last year, but I'd probably start again if I was doing a nine-to-five job. "As humans we think we're going to live forever, so don't worry about the next day too much. But I do worry about the next day,so I want to make the most of itEd Gold's exhibition Positive Futures is at Caernarfon Library gallery until Saturday, October 15


Ed Gold's passions for recording everyday life and sustainable living can be clearly seen in these studies of storyteller Eric Maddern of Cae Mabon, Llanberis (above), card-players in The Tap, Blaenau Ffestiniog (left), Carrie at Coed Hills rural artspace in South Wales (below) and Robin with Max the shire horse at Coed Hills (below left; Photographer Ed Gold with most of his worldly goods - a tent to live in and a trike to get around and take his acclaimed pictures of community life
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 15, 2005
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