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, I employ photographs along with testimony, sound, film, and other materials to examine American state-created realities in the post-9/11 era. As the Los Angeles Review of Books recently put it, as "a former civil rights attorney, Cornwall has a clear penchant for exploring the uncivil nature of the world. . . ."
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.
Necessary Fictions, my new book on American state-created realities, was first presented at the 2020 National Geographic Storytellers Summit and is available now at Radius Books.
Honors include a 2019 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Photography and Leica Women Foto Project Award; a Harpo Foundation Visual Artist Grant, a Center for Emerging Visual Artists Fellowship, and a Duke University Archive of Documentary Arts Collection Award for Women Documentarians; the Lianzhou (China) Foto Festival Punctum Award and Fotofest Charles Jing Fellowship (both juried exhibition prizes); shortlists for the 2019 W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant and the 2019 and 2020 Tim Hetherington Trust Visionary Award; and nominations for the Baum Award for an Emerging American Photographer and ICP Infinity Award.
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.
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