Artist’s Statement

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 his landmarks.

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 lost.



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 centre.

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 house.

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 of portraits

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,
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 - 65
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 pages.



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