by Dana Irina Popa
"Alf Kebbell has been
living in Elephant & Castle since 1982. He is blind;
or "registered blind", he prefers to say as he has some sight out
of his right eye.
Alf can distinguish extremely strong lights, as in a neon bulb. He can sense
and see a shape if something is moving towards him at a very close distance.
Most blind people do not live in complete darkness.
On a bright sunny day though, his sight would not be of any help at all; everything
under the sunlight would appear too washed out to get any shape and the shadows
would become black confusing patches. His greatest difficulty is to walk when
it has rained and the sun shines on the pavement. That blinds him completely.
Alf uses a cane. Though in Elephant & Castle he does not need one to find
his way around. He uses it so that people do not bump into him; they still do.
He has been taking the same routes, stepping on the same pavement, passing by
the same shops and street poles. He has gained the most precise notion of where
everything lies in Elephant & Castle. Alf navigates precisely relying on
The subway was harder to learn as the sounds are all the same inside it and if
you are blind there are no clues where you are, except for the light at its end,
extremely contrasty to the the darkness around. One door in the wall is one of
those landmarks without which Alf would find it more difficult to find his way
around. Touched by the cane, the door sounds completely different than the sound
of the cane on the wall. He has to turn first on the right simply to reach the
shopping centre. A neon bulb, reflecting extremely strong light stays for the
cigarette shop. From the tall advertising board, he has to walk only 5 paces
at 45 degrees in a diagonal line to get to the mailbox. He has used this mailbox
for 19 years. A dip in the pavement, the reminiscence of a tree, tells him exactly
where he is. Alf feels this dip in the pavement every day. The telephone booths
are an essential landmark towards the same bus stop, every morning. An old wall,
of which he is aware for 19 years now, marks the end of the park. From the gate
of the park, Alf knows that there are approximately 120 meters along the fence
to the last set of traffic lights closest to his home. And the football pitch,
that leads Alf home, lies next to his house, on Newington Estates.
I tried to recreate the space Alf navigates through every day, portraying his
landmarks at the moment of his passing by. Without them, Alf would be completely
01. Advertising board. Five more steps in a 45 degree diagonal line
to the mail box.
02. Cigarette shop. By the strong neon light Alf knows that he has
arrived at the cigarette shop.
03. Dip in the pavement. There used to be a tree there. Alf feels
the dip in he pavement and he knows exactly where he is.
04. Gate of the park. Walk along the fence of the park to the last
set of traffic lights.
05. Imperial War Museum Park. Turn around. The end of the park.
06. Door in the Subway. First left and chuck a right to the shopping
07. Newington Causeway Walk straight forward, approximately 40 more
steps to the bus stop.
08. Football pitch Just a few paces away from Alf’s
09. Subway exit. Walk to the small patch of strong light to get out
of the subway.
With degree studies from University of Bucharest (BA HONS in PR and
Advertising, School of Journalism and Mass Communication Studies)
and London College of Communication (MA Distinction Documentary Photography
and Photojournalism), Irina Dana Popa has been awarded for her photography
through Jerwood Award 2007, UK and The Jury Prize in Days Japan International
Photojournalism Awards 2007.
The artist has been widely exhibited throughout Europe, America and
Japan in: Belfast, New York, Lausanne, Tokyo, London and Luxembourg.
Published and exhibited projects:
Not Natasha – photo story on sex trafficked women from Moldova
Landmarks – photo story on a blind man living in Elephant and
Castle, London, UK
Over the EU Fence – photo story on the border between Romania
and Moldova that runs through the middle of one village
Pavel – the man who lives alone in the entire village – series
As photographer, her work has been published
in many publications around the world and recently in books.
Published in magazines:
Amnesty International USA, June 2008
Photo8, March 2008 issue 23, p. 90 – 101
British Journal of Photography, UK Imagining Ourselves, a global generation
of women, http://imaginingourselves.imow.org/pb/Story.aspx?G=1&C=0&id=1195&lang=1
Vrij Nederland, No 5, February, 2008, Netherlands, p.48 – 55
Portfolio, No. 46, November 2007, UK, p.72 - 75 Ogoniok, No.42, Russia,
p.26 – 29
KK, No. 14, March 2007, Norway, p.34 – 40
Days Japan, vol. 4, December, Japan, 2007, p.26 - 29
Days Japan, Special International Edition, No. 5, May 2007, p.62 -
Books East Book, (2008), edited by Regina Maria Anzenberger and Reiner
Riedler, moser verlag GmbH, München.
Home, Elephant and Castle, (2008), edited by Sutherland, P., London
College of Communication, London, featured with Landmarks, 6 fold out