Debi Cornwall returned to visual expression in 2014 after a 12-year career as a wrongful conviction lawyer. Marrying dark humor and empathy with structural critique, she employs photographs along with archival material, testimony, sound, and video to examine American power and identity in the post-9/11, “War-on-Terror” era.
Cornwall studied photography at RISD while completing a degree in Modern Culture and Media at Brown University.
Her first book, Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay (Radius Books, 2017) received numerous awards and honors.
Publisher: Radius Books
More Info: Podcast Nearest Truth by Brad Feuerhelm: Episode 137: Debi Cornwall
Necessary Fictions explores the performance of American power and identity in the post-9/11 era. What are the stories we tell ourselves, the games we play, to manage unsettling realities? Made on ten military bases across the United States since 2016, Necessary Fictions documents mock-village landscapes in the fictional country of “Atropia” and its denizens, roleplayers who enact versions of their past or future selves in realistic training scenarios. Costumed Afghan and Iraqi civilians, many of
whom have fled war, now recreate it in the service of the U.S. military. Real soldiers pose in front of camouflage backdrops, dressed by Hollywood makeup artists in “moulage”—fake wounds—as they prepare to deploy.
Cornwall presents a meta-reality—the artifice of war—and the book combines her photographs with a variety of texts to provoke critical inquiry about America’s fantasy industrial complex.
By The Way
Laurie Anderson – Only an Expert from Homeland ℗ 2010 Nonesuch Records, Inc.
Book Specs: Hardcover / 9 x 12 inches 105 images / 324 pages / ISBN: 9781942185697 / Photographs & Text by Debi Cornwall / Poetry by Nomi Stone / Fiction by Roy Scranton / Essays by Makeda Best and Sarah Sentilles. Available here.