Selected News & Reviews
"Ms. Cornwall is an expert in this strain of American dystopia — her previous photo book, “Welcome to Camp America,” was set at the Guantánamo Bay base — and in how to convey it through eerie, washed color."
—Siddhartha Mitter, reviewing Necessary Fictions exhibition, "Photoville Adds New Vistas, Venues, and Vision" New York Times.
". . . it’s hard country to photograph, featureless and dismal even at the sweet hours of dawn and dusk, which makes Debi Cornwall’s aptly titled photographic suite Necessary Fictions all the more remarkable," with "well-written text that accompanies her arresting photographs . . . Cornwall has a clear penchant for exploring the uncivil nature of the world in which men and women are paid to 'hurt people and break things' . . . preparing for real hell by means of real make-believe. Novelist Ben Fountain calls it the Fantasy Industrial Complex, and Debi Cornwall’s book is an extraordinary chronicle of its Disneyland."
—Gregory McNamee, "Village of the Damned," Los Angeles Review of Books.
". . . the images guide us through the narrative, the accompanying text builds on the already compelling attention to detail of these scenarios" . . . "the wealth of factual references–contracts, lawsuits and statistics–reflect Cornwall’s thorough, investigative method. . . ."
—Izabela Radwanska Zhang, "Debi Cornwall Investigates the Performance of US State Control," British Journal of Photography.
"Debi is developing an extraordinary documentary voice that uses factual records of fictional events to explore our relationship with truth at a time when the traditional media doesn’t know how to respond to a heaving ocean of disinformation."
—Juries' statements in shortlisting Pineland films concept for the 2019 and 2020 Tim Hetherington Trust Visionary Awards.
Inaugural Leica Women Foto Project Award for Necessary Fictions.
"Welcome to Camp America operates by way of delicate juxtaposition. . . Cornwall, who worked as a wrongful conviction lawyer for twelve years before becoming a photographer, brings an evidentiary eye to her images.”
—Michael McCanne, "Black Sights," Art in America Magazine.
"Cornwall scrutinizes America’s most heavily guarded prison through a deconstructive lens that uncouples the visible from the familiar. Her images act as X-rays that expose the logic of a penal system responsible for torture. . . Cornwall has an eye for the deadpan ordinary detail that lacerates with banality . . . The Gitmo she shows us is hygienic, modular, efficient, mass-produced, and recognizably American in its logic, ubiquity, and form. . . Braiding these images with archival texts — sworn statements of beatings, CIA instructions for 'enhanced interrogation'” and excerpts of detainee interviews — Cornwall destabilizes Gitmo’s facade of normalcy through incisive juxtapositions and interpolations."
—Lev Feigin, "Inside Guantanamo Bay: A Photographer Documents America’s Most Heavily Guarded Prison," Hyperallergic.
". . . all of Cornwall’s work is in some way collaborative. . . her images [of Guantánamo] turn the brash tropical light into an advantage, bathing the exteriors in a washed, vaguely melancholy glare, in contrast to the institutional fluorescent of the interiors." The released-prisoner portrait "set-up invites the viewer to share in his alienation without really knowing it. He appears fragile. Our position, close behind him, is protective. We could catch him if he fell. "
—Siddhartha Mitter, "Outside the Wire: Camp America Comes Home," The Intercept.
—WCA Profiled in European Photography Magazine #102.
"Although Cornwall understands the gravity of her topic, she approaches these dilemmas with an imaginative playfulness. . . The exhibition’s startling power derives from these jarring proximities: between pain and pleasure, boredom and entertainment, revealing and redacting, beauty and abuse. . . Cornwall foments a complicated mood, an absence of answers and identities."
—Zak Hatfield on the WCA exhibition at Steven Kasher Gallery, in The Guardian.
"Welcome to Camp America, Inside Guantánamo Bay (Radius Books), [is] a surreal portrait inside one of the most horrific places on earth. . . What she saw was the eerie veneer of a culture invested in appearances above all. . . Cornwall invites viewers to piece together meaning using shiny fragments of a horror story that can be felt in the portraits made of 14 former detainees. . . ."
—Miss Rosen, "A Surreal Portrait of Guantánamo Bay," Huck Magazine.
—Teju Cole names Welcome to Camp America one of the ten "Best Photo Books of 2017," New York Times Magazine.
"Debi Cornwall’s photographic study of the Guantánamo Bay detention center paints the facility in a surreal light, foregrounding its Kafkaesque contradictions and leaving the reader with the sense of having visited a twisted extrajudicial Disney World. . . " With sequencing that "bemuses and horrifies" . . . WCA's "odyssey through Guantánamo Bay is an uncomfortable but vital one—it raises serious questions as to what America really stands for, and calls to mind what Hannah Arendt called the 'banality of evil.'"
—"The Ten Best Photography Books of 2017," Smithsonian Magazine.
"Welcome to Camp America is a weighty tome that has layers upon layers... A riveting insight into the Kafkaesque qualities of this infamous facility to attend to the details of the West’s military-industrial complex, post-9/11."
—Tim Clark, "Top 10 Photo Books of 2017," 1000 Words Magazine.
"The juxtaposition of this dark humour renders the reader conflicted, uneasy and curious. The design is immersive."
—Izabela Radwanska Zhang, on WCA, on view in the Paris Photo-Aperture First Photo Book Prize exhibition, British Journal of Photography.
WCA shortlisted for the Paris Photo-Aperture First Photo Book Prize.
"Cornwall’s photographs provide a subtly layered study of an important chapter in American history. Intermingling investigative reporting with fine art aesthetics, her images constantly walk a knife-edge of interpretation, each a test of vantage point and state of mind, and it is this openness that makes the exhibit so thought-provoking and compelling. Her implied criticisms are measured, mixing the biting use of understated visual satire with a more sympathetic view of the plight of the detainees. While we never witness the horrors of torture that have become synonymous with the name Guantánamo Bay, the space in Cornwall’s photographs allows the viewer to extrapolate from the available evidence and to draw their own conclusions about the implications. By choosing a more considered approach, she’s allowed us to find our own way to certain nuanced truths and contradictions, offering us a line of thinking to follow that encourages active engagement and reconsideration."
—Loring Knoblauch on the WCA exhibition at Steven Kasher Gallery in Collector Daily.
"Debi Cornwall’s Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay (Radius Books) is an exhaustively researched, exceptionally photographed documentation of one the most heavily guarded prisons in the world."
—Mark Murrmann, "These Photos Plunge You Into the Inner Madness of Guantánamo," Book review, Mother Jones.
WCA Shortlisted for the Photo-Text Award at les Rencontres d'Arles.
"Ultimately this book needs to be experienced personally to grasp its full impact. . . haunting, revealing, personal, and shocking. . . Welcome to Camp America may be the most important photobook I have read in 2017."
—Forrest Soper, Photo-Eye.
"The book she has compiled is riveting. The 'story' is told in layers, and it comes across as a mystery (or several mysteries) to uncover. . . The opening sequence of images and declassified, redacted government documents seduces and teases, like the opening of a horror-suspense film, with a series of memories, flashbacks, glimpses of evidence and obstruction. . . We are being given incomplete, government-censored pieces of an elaborate puzzle, one piece at a time. Slowly, though, vague stories begin to clarify, emerging from the fog, and become frightfully real."
—Jim Casper, Lensculture.
"[T]he effect is one of emotional dysfunction, keeling rapidly between laughter and abuse. It's sickening. And, because of that, also rather brilliant."
—Katherine Oktober Mathews, "Welcome to Camp America," Book review, GUP Magazine.