I am a conceptual documentary artist and filmmaker who returned to visual expression in 2014 after a 12-year career as a civil-rights lawyer. Marrying dark humor with structural critique, my work examines American state-created realities through photographs, film, testimony, and archival material.
2000 Harvard Law School, J.D.
1995 Brown University, B.A., magna cum laude, Honors in Modern Culture & Media (photography)
1992-95 Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), photography classes
Necessary Fictions (Radius Books, 2020)
Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay (Radius Books, 2017)
Welcome to Camp America, Stadthaus Ulm (Germany), curated by Daniela Baumann (November 2021 to March 2022)
Welcome to Camp America, Musée de la Photographie Charleroi (Belgium) (23 January to 16 May, 2021)
Welcome to Camp America, les Rencontres de la Photographie en Gaspésie (Canada)
Welcome to Camp America, Cortona on the Move Festival (Italy)
Welcome to Camp America, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (PA)
Welcome to Camp America, Head On Photo Festival (Sydney, Australia)
Welcome to Camp America, Steven Kasher Gallery (New York, NY)
Welcome to Camp America, Carriage House Gallery, Brown University (Providence, RI)
Welcome to Camp America, BMW Photo Space of GoEun Museum of Photography (Busan, S. Korea)
Welcome to Camp America, Centre de la Photographie Genève (Switzerland)
Punctum Award Special Exhibition, Lianzhou Foto Touring Exhibition, Chongqing (China)
Welcome to Camp America, Lianzhou International Foto Festival (China) (catalogue)
Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play, Gitmo on Sale, Gallery 1401, University of the Arts (Philadelphia, PA)
Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play, Gitmo on Sale, Photoville (Brooklyn, NY)
Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play, Fovea Exhibitions (Beacon, NY)
Selected Group Exhibitions
Photographie(s) en guerre (Photography at War), Musée de l'Armée (Paris, France) (forthcoming 23 March to 17 July, 2022)
Leica Women Foto Award Winners, Photoville (Brooklyn, NY) (17 September to 29 November, 2020)
False Memory, Rugby Art Gallery & Museum (England) (Pineland Hollywood) (6 August to 14 November)
Entrouvert (Half Open), Analix Forever Gallery (Geneva, Switzerland)
Leica Women Foto Project Award Exhibition, Leica Gallery (Boston, MA)
Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book Award Exhibition, Photo London (U.K.)
Discoveries of the Meeting Place, Fotofest Biennial (Houston, TX) (catalogue)
En Suspens (In Between), le BAL (Paris, France) (catalogue)
"This exhibition is a poetic, abstract, fragile attempt to translate something of our times. Something indefinable, intangible but that might be recognised as the condition of one person, of several or of all: being in a state of suspension." With Bas Jan Ader, Luc Delahaye, Darek Fortas, Hiwa K, Aglaia Konrad, Jacques-Henri Michot, Rabih Mroué, Mélanie Pavy, Sebastian Stumpf, Paola Yacoub, & Henk Wildschut, curated by Le BAL Director Diane Dufour.
Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards Shortlist Exhibition, Paris Photo Fair, Grand Palais (France);
Aperture Gallery (2017-2018); Touring in 2018 to Düsseldorf Photo Weekend; Month of Photography Los Angeles, Photo Basel (Switzerland), Deichtorhallen Hamburg Triennial of Photography (Germany), Cortona on the Move (Italy), and Medium Festival (San Diego).
Hope, Beirut Art Fair (Lebanon), Annalix Forever Genève Contemporary Art Gallery
Bending the Frame, Gulf + Western Gallery, NYU Tisch School of the Arts (NY, NY), curated by Fred Ritchin.
With #Dysturb; Tim Hetherington; Jan Hoek; Chris Jordan; Jennifer Karady; Gideon Mendel; Celia A. Shapiro; Taryn Simon and Aaron Swartz; Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair; and Sumeja Tulic.
Something Fierce, Lannan Foundation Gallery (Santa Fe, NM)
Featuring eight women artists in the Lannan Foundation's collection whose work exemplifies an element of ferocity, whether it be expressed in the subject, process or intent. With Christine Corday, Sharon Core, Roni Horn, Munson Hunt, An-My Lê, Sarah Pickering, and Victoria Sambunaris. Curated by Christie Davis.
Aperture Summer Open: On Freedom, Aperture Gallery (NY, NY), curated by For Freedoms
La Nuit de l’Année, les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles (France)
Critical Mass Top 50, Artwork Network (Denver, CO)
STUMP, Candela Books + Gallery (Richmond, VA)
With Lindsey Beal, Sheila Pee Bright, Tom Kiefer, Mark Peterson, Brian Ulrich, and D.M. Whitman.
GuatePhoto International Festival de Fotografía (Guatemala)
Encontros da Imagem XXV International Photo Festival (Portugal)
21st Annual Juried Show, Peter Urban Legacy Exhibition, Griffin Museum of Photography (Winchester, MA) (catalogue)
EXPOSURE, Photographic Resource Center (Boston, MA) (Juried exhibition)
CAPTURED, Newspace Center for Photography (Portland, OR) (Juried exhibition)
Conceal & Reveal, Belfast Photo Festival (Northern Ireland)
NEXT:, Castell Gallery (Asheville, NC) (Juried exhibition)
Photoville: 20 Emerging American Photographers, Leiden International Photo Festival (Netherlands)
Student Show, Photographic Resource Center (Boston, MA)
Harvard Art Museums
Museum of Fine Art Houston
Duke University Archive of Documentary Arts, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Yossi Milo Collection
Joaquim Paiva Collection
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library (WCA book)
SF MoMA Research Library Special Collection (WCA book)
Getty Research Institute (WCA book)
Cleveland Museum of Art Ingalls Library (WCA book)
Lianzhou Museum of Photography (China) (WCA book)
GoEun Museum of Photography Library (Busan, S. Korea) (WCA book)
Tim Hetherington Trust Visionary Award, Shortlist (Necessary Fictions: Pineland film installation concept)
NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship (Photography)
Leica Women Foto Project Award
W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant, Finalist (Necessary Fictions)
Tim Hetherington Trust Visionary Award, Shortlist (Necessary Fictions: Pineland film installation concept)
Furthermore publishing grant
Alice Award, Shortlist
PDN Annual, Publisher's Choice Award
Cuts & Burns Residency, Outpost Artist Resources (Necessary Fictions:Jade Helm film)
Lucie First Photo Book Prize, Finalist
Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book Award, Longlist
Fotofest Charles Jing Fellowship (Inaugural juried exhibition prize)
International Center of Photography Infinity Award (Artist's Book), Nominee
Harpo Foundation Visual Artist Grant
Paris Photo-Aperture First PhotoBook Award, Shortlist
Les Rencontres de la Photographie d'Arles Photo-Text Book Award, Shortlist
Center for Emerging Visual Artists Fellowship (2017-2019)
Brown University Fitt Artist-in-Residence
New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fiscal Sponsorship, Necessary Fictions
Punctum Award, Lianzhou Foto Festival (Juried prize)
Baum Award for an Emerging American Photographer, Nominee
Duke University Archive of Documentary Arts Collection Award for Women Documentarians
Critical Mass Top 50
Project & publication grants from the Vital Projects Fund at Proteus, Violet Jabara Charitable Trust, David
Rockefeller Fund, Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Puffin Foundation, and Pollination Project
Speranza Foundation Lincoln City Fellowship
New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fiscal Sponsorship, Welcome to Camp America
Grand Prix International de Photographie de Vevey (Switzerland), Shortlist
Alexandra Moore, Ph.D., "Ghost Detainees and State Power Across the Thresholds of Detectability,"
ASAP/Journal (Johns Hopkins University Press, forthcoming 2020).
Daniel Grinberg, "Some Restrictions Apply: The Exhibition Spaces of Guantánamo Bay," Cinema Journal (July, 2018).
Esther Whitfield, Ph.D., "Guantánamo and Community: Visual Approaches to the Base," in Guantánamo and American
Empire: The Humanities Respond, Don E. Walicek and Jessica Adams, eds. (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017).
Jean-Philippe Dedieu, "Guantánamo's Frames of War: A Dialogue with Debi Cornwall and Larry Siems," Humanity:
An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, Vol. 8/1 (Spring 2017).
Selected Additional Publications:
Siddhartha Mitter, "Photoville Adds New Venues, Vistas, and Vision," Exhibition review, New York Times (22 September 2020), at C2.
Michael McCanne, "Black Sights," Book review, Art in America Magazine (June/July 2018), at pp. 51-53.
John McDonald, "Shifting the Focus" Exhibition review, Sydney Morning Herald (18 May 2018).
Erin Thompson, "Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay," Book review, Zeke Magazine (Spring 2018).
Diane Dufour, Bartolomé Stanson & Julie Hérault, eds., In Between (Exhibition catalogue) (Le Bal & Shelter Press, 2018).
Connor Gordon, "Confronting Incarceration's Destructive Invisibility, Debi Cornwall & Amy Elkins, " Interview & Photo Essay,
Epistem Magazine at pp. 20-33 (The Prindle Institute for Ethics, DePauw University, February 2018).
Moritz Neumüller, "Extreme Exposures," Book review, European Photography Magazine, No. 102 at pp. 64-70 (2018).
Aperture Foundation, “The 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards Shortlist: First PhotoBook,”
The Photobook Review at p. 11 (Issue 013/Fall 2017).
Drew Zeiba, “Debi Cornwall on Comfort and Captivity,” PIN-UP Magazine (Issue 23, Fall/Winter 2017/2018), at p. 252.
Izabela Radwanska Zhang, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," Book Review, British Journal of Photography at pp. 18-19
David O'Neill, "Artful Volumes: Bookforum Contributors on the Season's Outstanding Art Books," Book review,
Bookforum, Vol. 4, Issue 3 at p. 26 (Fall 2017).
Seock Hyunhye, Interview & Exhibition review, Sajinyesul Photographic Art Magazine (Korea) (August 2017).
Clémentine Mercier, “Coquillages et Cuirassés,” Exhibition review, Libération (France) (12 May 2017).
Samuel Schellenberg, "Bienvenu à Guantánamo," Exhibition review, Le Courrier (Switzerland) (21 April 2017).
Monika Dommann, "Welche Farben hat Orange?” Exhibition review, WOZ Die Wochenzeitung (Switzerland)
(20 April 2017).
Caroline Stevan, "J'ai voulu montrer le fun de Guantánamo, selon les GIs," Interview & exhibition review, Le Temps
(Switzerland) (31 March 2017).
Anna Aznaour, "J’ai photographié d’ex-détenus de Guantánamo," Interview & exhibition review, Tribune de Genève
(Switzerland) (22 March 2017).
Nata Zhu, Interview, Photoworld Magazine (China) (January 2017).
David Drake, “Fotofest 2016 Reviewer’s Choice,” Fotomagazin (Germany) (20 July 2016).
Elodie Cabrera, “Hors la Loi Américaine,” Polka Magazine (France) (October 2015).
Mark Feeney, “At the PRC, 13 Ways of Looking at the World,” Exhibition review, Boston Globe (25 June 2015).
"Picture Power: Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play," Photo essay, Newsweek Japan (3 December 2014).
"Contrast heerst op Guantánamo," Photo essay, de Morgen (Belgium) (16 October 2014).
"Guantánamo, Reframed," Photo essay, International N.Y. Times (14 October 2014).
Online & Radio:
Izabela Radwanzka Zhang, "Debi Cornwall Investigates the Performance of US State Control," Interview & Book review,
British Journal of Photography (30 August 2020).
Gregory McNamee, "Village of the Damned," Book review, Los Angeles Review of Books (28 August 2020).
Francesco Scalici, "Debi Cornwall: Necessary Fictions," Book review, Float Magazine (28 July 2020).
Katherine Oktober Matthews, "The Power of State-Created Reality: An Interview with Debi Cornwall," Riding the Dragon
(20 July 2020).
Lev Feigin, "Inside Guantánamo Bay: A Photographer Documents America's Most Heavily Guarded Prison,"
Book review, Hyperallergic (23 August 2018).
Edith Newhall, "The Creepiness of the Photos Takes a Moment to Sink In," Exhibition review, Philadelphia Inquirer (10 August 2018).
Deborah Krieger, "Photography Exhibition Captures the Incongruous Crush of Guantánamo Bay Prisons,"
Humble Arts Foundation (9 August 2018).
Siddhartha Mitter, "Outside the Wire: Camp America Comes Home," The Intercept (10 June 2018).
Ninah Kopel, Fourth Estate Podcast, Interview, 2SER Radio (Australia) (18 May 2018).
Garry Maddox, "Mugs, shirts and stuffed toys: the gift shop view of Guantánamo," Interview & photo essay,
Sydney Morning Herald (13 May 2018).
Zack Hatfield, "Debi Cornwall's Welcome to Camp America," Exhibition review, The Guardian (25 February 2018).
Wilco Versteeg, "Roaming Without End: A group exhibition in Paris navigates documentary strategies in a directionless world."
(Exhibition review), Aperture Foundation Blog (21 February 2018).
Miss Rosen, "A Surreal Portrait of Life Inside Guantánamo Bay: Camp America," Huck Magazine (17 January 2018).
Mark Murrmann, "Here are 10 of the Most Captivating Photo Books of the Year. Just Look." Mother Jones
(31 December 2017).
Teju Cole, "The Best Photo Books of 2017," New York Times Magazine (30 December 2017).
Tim Clark, "Top 10 Photobooks of 2017," 1000 Words Magazine (UK) (18 December 2017).
Stefan Wagner, "So Oder So ist Guantánamo," Interview & book review, Der Spiegel (15 December 2017).
Loring Knaubloch, "Debi Cornwall: Welcome to Camp America, Inside Guantánamo Bay @Steven Kasher,” Exhibition review,
Collector Daily (30 November 2017).
Ryan P. Smith, “The Ten Best Photography Books of 2017,” Book review, Smithsonian Magazine (28 November 2017).
Fernando Arias, “Guantánamos framtid,” Exhibition review, Sweden Radio P1 (13 November 2017).
Nina Strochlic, "Eerie Photos Reveal Life Inside Guantánamo Bay Prison," National Geographic Magazine (8 Nov. 2017).
Donny Bajohr, "These Photographs Capture the Complexities of Life at Guantánamo," Smithsonian Magazine (6 Nov. 2017).
Sarah Cascone, "Editors' Picks, Debi Cornwall: Welcome to Camp America, Inside Guantánamo Bay at Steven Kasher Gallery,"
Artnet News (24 October 2017).
Mark Murrmann, "These Photos Plunge You Into the Inner Madness of Guantánamo," Book review, Mother Jones
(7 October 2017).
Katherine Oktober Mathews, "Welcome to Camp America," Book review, GUP (12 September 2017).
Jim Casper, "Welcome to Camp America," Book review, Lensculture (12 September 2017).
Jordan G. Teicher, "In Guantánamo, Ensared in the War on Terror," Book review, New York Times Lens Blog
(11 September 2017).
Michael Abatemarco, "Empowerment through Art: 'Something Fierce,'" Exhibition review, Santa Fe New Mexican
(4 August 2017).
Melissa Lawford, "Consumerism Goes on Display at the Lianzhou Foto Festival," Exhibition review,
British Journal of Photography (6 December 2016).
"The Best of Photoville, New York City's Largest Photo Exhibition," The Guardian (U.K.) (9 September 2015).
Jenna Garrett, "Inside Gitmo's Surreal Recreation Spots, Tiki Bar and All," Wired Magazine (24 June 2015).
Lindsay Comstock, “The 10 Best Photography Exhibits of Summer 2015,” American Photo Magazine (22 June 2015).
Lewis Bush, "Gitmo on Sale," The British Journal of Photography (12 May 2015).
Romke Hoogwaerts, "Look: Souvenirs from the Guantánamo Bay Gift Shops," New York Times Magazine (1 May 2015).
Marco Werman, "The World," Interview, Public Radio International (PRI.org) (14 October 2014).
David Gonzalez, "Guantánamo's Surreal Prison Landscape," New York Times Lens Blog (14 October 2014).
Selected Artist’s Lectures, Panels & Teaching
Panelist, "Visual Journalism in the Post-Truth Era," Fotodemic (31 July 2020).
Artist Lecture, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (21 May 2020).
ICP New Media Narratives Workshop, Necessary Fictions (March 2020).
"Necessary Fictions": in conversation with Radius cofounder David Chickey, STABLE Arts (5 March 2020).
Artist's lecture, National Geographic Storytellers Summit (Washington, D.C., 16 January 2020).
Invited speaker, The New School (Documentary Strategies), ICP (Images and Ideas; Image Strategies for Human Rights),
NYU (Methodologies graduate course), Pace University (Art as a Vehicle for Social Change) (2018-19).
Artist's Lecture, Yale Law School Visual Law Project (11 October 2018).
Artist's Lecture, les Rencontres de la Photographie en Gaspésie (in French), (Percé, Canada), 18 August 2018.
Panelist, "ICP Lab: Blue Skies and Bad Dreams," ICP Museum (New York, NY), 22 April 2018.
Aperture PhotoBook Spotlight talk with Lesley A. Martin and David Chickey, AIPAD (New York, NY), 5 April 2018.
Artist's Lecture, Columbia School of Journalism (New York, NY), 27 March 2018.
Creative Conversation with James Estrin, New York Times Lens editor, Fotofest Biennial (Houston, TX), 16 March 2018.
Conversation between Debi Cornwall, Aglaia Konrad, Paola Yakoub, and curator Diane Dufour on work in the group show,
En Suspens (In Between). Le BAL (Paris, France), 10 February 2018.
Artist’s Lecture, Photography in the Age of Global Surveillance and Perpetual Wars, Columbia University Global Centers (Paris, France),
13 November 2017.
Symposium Panelist, What Does it Mean to Make Art at Guantánamo?, John Jay College, CUNY (New York, NY),
16 October 2017.
Panelist, Bending the Frame: Where do we go from here? Moderated by Fred Ritchin, NYU Tisch School of the Arts,
(New York, NY), 5 October 2017.
Panelist, "Photobooks: Protest and Resistance," Contemporary Artists' Book Conference, New York Art Book Fair,
MoMA PS1 (Queens, NY), 22 September 2017.
Symposium Panelist, Guantánamo Going Forward: What's Next for Current and Former Detainees?, Brown University
(Providence, RI), 15 September 2017.
Artist’s Lecture & discussion with curator Sujong Song, BMW Photo Space of GoEun Museum (Busan, S. Korea), 30 June 2017.
Artist’s Lecture, School for Visual Arts (SVA) (New York, NY), 25 April 2017.
Presenter, “Welcome to Camp America: Toward a New Documentary Form," Open Engagement (Chicago, IL), 22 April 2017.
Panelist, Saying War, Building Peace, Palais des Nations, United Nations (Geneva, Switzerland), 14 March 2017.
Artist's Lecture, Reiss-Engelhorn Museums, ZEPHYR raum für fotographie (Mannheim, Germany), 24 May 2016.
Panelist, Securing Support for Your Long-Term Projects, with Mary Virginia Swanson and Jamey Stillings, Fotofest
(Houston, TX), 16 March 2016.
Panelist, Influencing Policy and Social Change through Photography, with Stephanie Sinclair and Brooke Singer, Photoville
(Brooklyn, NY), 12 September 2015.
Artist's Lecture, Doomed Gallery (London, UK) /Alternative Processes Collective, 7 April 2015.
Panelist, Art, Film and Guantánamo: a Special Freedom Flicks Event, with Molly Crabapple and Omar Farah,
Brooklyn Public Library, 14 January 2015.
Advisory Board, CASE Art Fund
2001-13 Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP, Civil rights attorney (Partner 2006-13)
2000-01 Honorable Robert W. Sweet, U.S. District Court (S.D.N.Y.), Law Clerk
1995-97 Federal Defender Division/Legal Aid Society (S.D.N.Y.), Investigator/Trial Assistant
1994-95 Associated Press (Providence, RI), Photographer (Stringer)
Brooklyn, NY, US