faculty
Debi Cornwall
faculty

Debi Cornwall

Debi Cornwall a conceptual documentary artist who returned to visual expression in 2014 after a 12-year career as a civil-rights lawyer. Marrying dark humor with structural critique, she employs photographs, testimony, sound, video, and archival materials to examine American power and identity in the post-9/11 era.

While completing a degree in Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, Debi 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, she attended Harvard Law School and practiced for more than a decade as a wrongful conviction attorney. Exhaustive research and negotiation were critical to her advocacy and remain integral to her visual work.

Recent honors include a 2019 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 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 2019 Tim Hetherington Trust Visionary Award; and a Baum Award for an Emerging American Photographer nomination.

Her 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. Debi has 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.

Her next project, Necessary Fictions, is forthcoming with Radius Books in 2020.