Life in Wales, the Alaska village on the tip of the Seward Peninsula, is not the stuff of Jack London's romanticized Alaska nor the trashiness of Hollywood's reality-show version. As we find from a remarkable new collection by British photographer Ed Gold, however, it is very much worthy of note.
"Wales: Portrait of an Alaska Village" takes us to this faraway place where days pass under extreme conditions in remote isolation with limited resources. Gold made two visits to the village, first in 2009 and then again in 2013 and extensively photographed the landscape, the town and the people. His work creates a sense that this is truly a place set upon the very edge of the world, where modernity is at best a thin layer beneath which lies a culture that has survived assimilation, financial stress, government policies ranging from imposed westernization to negligence, and the devastation of the 1918-19 flu epidemic that reduced the population by more than half.
Gold brings us into the village as he himself arrived. We see it first from the air, and then find ourselves at ground level in this alien and treeless place, where land, sky, sea and ice all merge into one vast expanse. He consciously chose to use only black-and-white images for this project, and it was a good move. The subtle tones of gray that blend, overlap and offset each other in these photographs extend the sense found in this book that Wales is a place apart, a place where the world as we understand it barely intrudes and where time operates by its own dictates.