I am a conceptual documentary artist who returned to visual expression in 2014 after a 12-year career as a wrongful conviction lawyer. Marrying dark humor with structural critique, I employ photographs along with archival material, testimony, sound, and video to examine American power and identity in the post-9/11 era.
While completing a degree in Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, I studied photography at RISD. After working for photographers Mary Ellen Mark and Sylvia Plachy, as an AP stringer, and as an investigator for the federal public defender's office, I attended Harvard Law School and practiced for more than a decade as a civil rights attorney. Exhaustive research and negotiation were critical to my advocacy and remain integral to my work as an artist.
Recent honors include winning a 2019 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Photography, a Harpo Foundation Visual Artist Grant, a Center for Emerging Visual Artists Fellowship, the Duke University Archive of Documentary Arts Collection Award for Women Documentarians, the Lianzhou (China) Foto Festival Punctum Award and inaugural Fotofest Charles Jing Fellowship (both juried exhibition prizes), as well as being named a finalist for the 2019 W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant, shortlisted for the 2019 Tim Hetherington Trust Visionary Award, and nominated for a Baum Award for an Emerging American Photographer.
My first book, Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay (Radius, 2017), was named among 2017's 10 best photo books by Teju Cole in the New York Times Magazine, among others. It was also a 2018 PDN Annual Publisher's Choice Award winner, shortlisted for a 2018 Alice Award, longlisted for the 2018 Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book Award, a 2018 Lucie First Photo Book Prize finalist, 2018 ICP Infinity Award nominee, and shortlisted for the 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture First PhotoBook Prize and les Rencontres de la Photographie d'Arles Photo-Text Book Award. I have lectured or exhibited in France, Switzerland, Germany, China, South Korea, Australia, Italy, Canada, Portugal, Lebanon, England, Guatemala, at UN Headquarters, the Steven Kasher Gallery, and in university, community, & contemporary-art spaces across the U.S.
My next project, Necessary Fictions, is forthcoming with Radius Books.
Subscribe to my mailing list here. If you would like to exhibit or acquire my work or invite me to speak or collaborate, please email me at email@example.com. Follow me @debicornwall on Instagram and Twitter.