Where Did All The Rebels Go?

  • Annabel Shingler
  • Eleni Parousi

Walking into Donna's room was like stepping into a speakeasy. Adam Ant spun on vinyl, warmth glowed from ambient fairy lights illuminating her eclectic punk-rock collection. Sex Pistols paintings hung on display with many more artworks casually leaning against walls creating long shadows. School bookshelves overfilled with adult books, videotapes, and magazines some of them at least 30 years old. Abandoned school lockers stood in one corner, atop sat original Salem cats from Sabrina the Teenage Witch and King Kong figurines. Debbie Harry’s memoir keeping watch from her nightstand. One of the best features was the classroom projector where she streamed music clips or one of her many adult films from her private collection. 
 As the evening went on Donna was spilling stories like a pot that had been left on a hot stove for too long – stories of the grindhouse film memorabilia shop she ran in Camden, and of her recently separated husband. Donna was married for 27 years, most of which she claimed were emotionally physically, and financially abusive. After the separation, she was signed off work due to mental health burnout. Donna was now taking a sabbatical from life – losing sense of time, as days and nights were an endless mix of memories and future dreams. Misplaced energy bounding inside her trying to find its release. I was captivated by this unapologetic rockabilly character exploring an alternative way of living, trying to heal from past trauma whilst simultaneously falling prey to addiction.  This was a narrative I wanted to push forward in a way that would be full of visual intrigue but would also carry universal themes of hardship with the reclamation of self-worth and personal identity. I wanted to capture Donna as a multi-faceted woman, both wild and wise, sexual, and still pure, unable to be defined by societal labels – sometimes to rebuild, first you need to deconstruct. Each photograph in this series is nuanced with Donna's personal story, influences, and self-reflection. The stylistic punk references allow her to visually connect to her formative years, the backdrop of the Catholic school adding a juxtaposed dimension to her rule-breaker persona. We additionally captured insights into her world on film as an identity piece, which will air online as a documentary.