THERE are so many stories surrounding the career of documentary photographer Ed Gold.

Stories about his life, stories about the lives of the incredible people he has met throughout his career, in fact there are far too many for any newspaper article.

But if I'm going to use one it would be the story that perhaps sums up Ed and his passion seeking out people on the fringes of society.

It's the story of when Ed went to Washington DC.

At the time he was living and working in Patagonia, Argentina, photographing descendants of Welsh settlers for an on-going project about Wales.

He says: "I had just published my own photography book of my previous two and a half years work there and a visiting Welsh professor from a Cardiff university told me about the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

"So this professor tells me that every year there's a festival at the Smithsonian which celebrates a different country and in 2009 it was Wales. He said 'Ed, they'd love your work, why don't you get in contact'. So I took a video of myself and talked about the work I had been doing in Wales and of course with the Welsh descendants in Patagonia and they thought it was great and asked me to come and show it."

Thinking he would kill two birds with one stone, Ed shipped his motorbike up to the East Coast from Buenos Aires with the aim of riding it across North America.

"While I was in Washington I met this girl," he smiles, "who was rather nice and she said when you get over to the West Coast come and look me up. At the same time I was looking at doing something different with my photography. A lot of it had been about Wales and photographing the people in the country but I thought it was about time I did something new. That's when I looked up what was the most westerly point of America and what did I find - a tiny Inuit village called Wales, the most westerly mainland point of the United States, which you can see Siberia from."

Which is how Ed found himself at a crossroads, both literal and metaphorical, somewhere in the Rockies debating whether he should carry on to the warm sunny beaches of California, possibly into the arms of a lovely young lady, or should he head north to the frozen wastelands of Alaska, into the unknown.

It was never in any doubt.

That's because all his life Ed has sought the unknown, the back of beyond, and the characters that live there.

At the start of his career that back of beyond was a lot closer to home, on the fringes of the Essex/Suffolk border, on farms and in country pubs where he met a fascinating characters, usually in the pub, after long days working on nearby farms.

"My father gave me my first camera when I was eight," he tells me. "It was an Ilford Sport from the Fifties. Since then I've always had a camera with me. I had learned how to develop film at school and then later I worked in a technical lab processing pictures for some of the top fashion and music photographers of the Eighties like Linda McCartney."

But it wasn't until he started chatting and getting to know the people living in and around those north Essex villages that he realized what to do with those skills, and his camera.

"It was around that time I took the first picture I was really happy with," Ed adds. "It was of a man called Ivan who had been a prisoner in a German concentration camp and I got introduced to him through the farmer I was working for. Obviously back then it was film so I had no way of knowing but as soon as I took the image I knew it was a good one. It was just great to meet him and hear his story but because I had heard he didn't really like people, I was really pleased he let me take his photograph. I was actually the only person he allowed to take his photo voluntarily in his life which I suppose says something about how I am with people."

And that's kind of how it's always been for Ed. Even when he got to the remote town of Wales and the time he went out with the soldiers from Colchester-based 2 Para to Afghanistan.

"It was for their last tour, Herrick 13," Ed says. "and while I was there I tried to integrate myself with the soldiers as much as possible, eating with them in the mess, going out on patrol. Eventually it became obvious to me that the photographs I needed to take were of them in their own personal space. All of my projects up until then had been taking pictures of people in their homes, or surroundings that were familiar or comfortable to them and in Afghan it was these tiny little bed spaces."

In Wales, Alaska, the integrating took a little more time and effort.

"These are very private people and so it takes a while to build up their trust," he adds. "One day I went out with a group who were hunting beyond the ice ridge on what was a flat calm sea. It was incredible, you could see Russia from where we were and we were all having a great time.

"At one point we had to pull our boat out of the water on to an iceberg a quarter of the size of a tennis court to cook up lunch. Then we got a VHF radio message from shore telling us to catch sight of the ice bergs blowing up from the south. It wasn't long before we were fighting our way across these various bergs to try and get back to the ice pressure ridge. It was really hard work going from one berg to the other but we made it to the ridge in the end, after five hours of dragging the boat full of assault rifles and fuel, where we were fortunate to see a natural ramp going up it. I said to the guys 'we need to move now or we're going to be stranded' and we got the boat up.

"When we got back it was big news and one of the hunters told me if I hadn't been there to help out they could have all died. After that I was a part of their community and they were more than happy to invite me in to document their homes and lives."

While his photographs remain on show at the Firstsite Gallery in Colchester until September, Ed is not wresting on his laurels with his next off-grid trip planned, this time motorcycling to the Gibson Desert in Australia to photograph the remotest community in Australia of indigenous Aboriginal people that live there.

"I don't think it is a conscious decision to get off grid," he explains. "I think it's more a subconscious desire to document and record the people who live on the fringes of society. Back when I started those fringes were a lot easier to get to, even in Essex. Today you have to look harder to find those people and that's why I find myself in the places I do now."

Ed Gold: Other Worlds

Firstsite Art Gallery,

Lewis Gardens, Colchester.

Until September 17. 10am to 5pm.

Free. 01206 713700.