I am a conceptual documentary artist who returned to visual expression after a 12-year career as a civil-rights lawyer. My work illuminates invisible systems through still and moving images along with testimony and archival materials.
I studied photography at RISD while completing a degree in Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. 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 as an attorney for more than a decade, also training as a mediator. Exhaustive research and negotiation were critical to my advocacy and remain integral to my work as an artist.
Recent honors include being named a nominee for the Prix Élysée, the Swiss prize for mid-career photographers; a nomination to apply for the Rome Prize at the American Academy in Rome; a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Photography; a Leica Women Foto Project Award; a Harpo Foundation Visual Artist Grant; a Center for Emerging Visual Artists Fellowship; and two Speranza Foundation Lincoln City Fellowships.
Necessary Fictions (Radius Books), my 2020 book on the staging and performance of American power in immersive, realistic military wargames, was nominated (longlisted) for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize and shortlisted for the Rencontres de la Photographie d'Arles Photo-Text Book Award. I have adapted two case studies from Necessary Fictions into short found-footage pieces. Both Pineland/Hollywood (10'36") and Jade Helm (14'30") are screening at film festivals. My first book, Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay (Radius), was named among 2017's 10 best by Teju Cole in the New York Times Magazine and shortlisted for the Paris Photo-Aperture First PhotoBook Prize, Arles Photo-Text Book Award and Alice Award, among other accolades.
I exhibit and lecture around the world. I'm an ICP adjunct, independent consultant, and serve on the Women Photograph Board of Directors as well as the CASE Art Fund Advisory Board.
Subscribe to my mailing list here. If you would like to exhibit or acquire my work or invite me to speak, teach, mentor, or collaborate, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me @debicornwall on Instagram and Twitter. No Facebook, no.