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Welcome to Camp America

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Welcome to Camp America
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In this photo book, touring exhibition, and series of community talks, conceptual documentary artist and former civil rights attorney Debi Cornwall employs photographs, archival material and text to disrupt assumptions and provoke new inquiry about Guantánamo Bay and the "Global War on Terror."


About the book:

Radius Books, 2017. Hardcover, 7x9.5". 160 pages, 70 color images including 14 inserts and 5 foldouts. Available at Radius Books, including limited editions with choice of prints.

Honors: 2018 PDN Annual Publisher's Choice Award Winner, ICP Infinity Award nominee, Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book Award (U.K.) longlist, 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture First PhotoBook Award and les Rencontres d'Arles Photo-Text Book Award shortlists. Named as one of Smithsonian Magazine's Ten Best Photography Books of 2017. Shortlisted for the 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture First PhotoBook Award and the 2017 Les Rencontres d'Arles Photo-Text Book Award. Named one of 2017's ten best photo books in New York Times Magazine by Teju Cole, Mother Jones, 1000 Words, and Smithsonian Magazine; among 2017's most notable in Photo Eye, Elizabeth Avedon, Lensculture, What Will You Remember.

Reviewed in the Guardian, European Photography Magazine, Huck Magazine, National Geographic, Der Spiegel, Smithsonian Magazine, British Journal of Photography, Mother Jones, Bookforum, Photo-Eye, GUP Magazine, Lensculture, Zeke, & New York Times Lens Blog.

Selected Reviews:

  • Mother Jones ("exhaustively researched, exceptionally photographed... It’s rare to find a photobook in which the book doesn’t just act as an outlet, but actually amplifies the power of the work within.");
  • Bookforum ("a sense of wondering rage");
  • Photo-Eye ("haunting, revealing, personal, and shocking"); 
  • British Journal of Photography ("The juxtaposition of this dark humour renders the reader conflicted, uneasy and curious. The design is immersive.");
  • Smithsonian Magazine ("Cornwall... casts a critical, deliberate eye"); and
  • National Geographic Magazine ("captures the stark contrast of life for prisoners and soldiers at the prison").

A vivid and disorienting glimpse into the U.S. Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, (known as “Gitmo”) and its growing diaspora, through photographs, once-classified government documents, and first-person accounts. Welcome to Camp America reflects three bodies of work, including: Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play, showing residential and leisure spaces of both prisoners and guards; Gitmo on Sale, depicting the commodification of American military power through gift-shop souvenirs; and Beyond Gitmo, investigating life after detention with 14 men once held as accused terrorists, now cleared and freed, living in nine countries, from Albania to Qatar. Environmental portraits in the free world replicate conditions of military regulation photography at Guantánamo Bay: no faces are shown. With unique construction in English and Arabic, the book seeks common ground while provoking new questions about compromises made between humanity and fear in the post-9/11 era. With essays by British releasee Moazzam Begg and ICP Dean Emeritus Fred Ritchin.

About the touring exhibition:

The Steven Kasher Gallery hosted the U.S. debut of the solo exhibition of Welcome to Camp America, Inside Guantánamo Bay from 26 October through 22 December 2017, incorporating photographs, once-classified archival material, and a sound installation in collaboration with investigative poet Frank Smith.

Welcome to Camp America has been a solo exhibition in Switzerland, at the Centre de la Photographie Genève; China, where it won the Punctum Award at the 2016 Lianzhou International Photo Festival; South Korea, at the BMW Photo Space of the GoEun Museum of Photography, Busan; Australia, at the Head On Photo Festival, and in the U.S. at Brown University's Carriage House Gallery. Images from the series have been included in group shows including Discoveries of the Meeting Place at the 2018 Fotofest Biennial (Houston, TX); En Suspens at Le Bal (Paris, France); Something Fierce at the 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; the Aperture Foundation Gallery's Summer Open show, curated by the artists' Super PAC, For Freedoms (NYC); and Bending the Frame, featuring artists and documentarians using alternative strategies for social change. Curated by Fred Ritchin at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Gulf & Western Gallery. Installation views here. International venues now being scheduled for 2018 and thereafter.

About the community conversation:

Free public programming is an integral part of this project. In connection with the book's release in 2017, Cornwall gave talks and participated in panels at Brown University, CUNY John Jay College, NYU, and Columbia Paris Global Centers. In conection with her Centre de la Photographie Genève exhibition, Cornwall was invited to address diplomats at United Nations headquarters. And at Steven Kasher Gallery, for the first time in the United States, she brought together a panel of speakers with first-hand experiences on both sides of the wire at Guantánamo Bay, including releasee memoirist Mohamedou Ould Slahi, former interrogator Mark Fallon, civil rights attorney J. Wells Dixon, in a conversation with her, moderated by critic and scholar Fred Ritchin.

A full listing of events is here.

Your contribution through NYFA to help fund the project is tax deductible.


Photographs were made possible by the generous support of the Speranza Foundation's Lincoln City Fellowship, the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust (VJCT), the Puffin Foundation, the Pollination Project, and a private donor. I am also grateful to the Vital Projects Fund at Proteus, the VJCT, the David Rockefeller Fund, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, and the Lannan Foundation for their support toward publication of the book.

Image result for violet jabara charitable trust David Rockefeller Fund

About Debi

Debi Cornwall is a conceptual documentary artist who returned to visual expression in 2014 after a 12-year career as a wrongful conviction lawyer. Marrying empathy and dark humor with structural critique, she employs photographs, archival material, testimony, text, and sound 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. I worked for photographers Mary Ellen Mark and Sylvia Plachy, as an AP stringer, and as an investigator for the federal public defender's office, then attended Harvard Law School and practiced for more than a decade as a civil rights attorney.

She has been honored with 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), and a nomination for the Baum Award for an Emerging American Photographer. See more at

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