Photographer Debi Cornwall began her career as a wrongful conviction lawyer, practicing for 12 years before turning her attention to art. Prior to attending law school at Harvard University, she trained in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design while completing a bachelor’s degree in modern culture and media at Brown University. She explains her joining of civil rights and photography this way: “My values as an advocate and trained mediator, as well as my background in representing innocent DNA exonerees, inform my visual work. My series marry empathy and dark humor with structural critique.”
Cornwall’s first major body of work is the three-part Welcome to Camp America, which centers around Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. The first part, Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play, features images of residential and leisure spaces for both guards and prisoners. The second, Gitmo on Sale, documents the trove of souvenirs available on the base. Finally, Beyond Gitmo traces 14 cleared and freed men, once held as alleged terrorists, to their reassigned homes in nine countries.
Cornwall’s first monographic publication, Welcome to Camp America, will be published by Radius Books in the fall of 2017. In English with elements in Arabic, the book looks to find common ground post-9/11, asking us to match our fear with humanity.