Debi Cornwall
A picture of a woman.

Debi Cornwall

Debi Cornwall is 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, sound, video, testimony, and other materials to examine American state-created realities.

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 civil-rights attorney. Exhaustive research and negotiation were critical to her advocacy and remain integral to her work as an artist.

Recent honors include a NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship in Photography, a Leica Women Foto Award, a
Harpo Foundation Visual Artist Grant, as well as being shortlisted for the W. Eugene Smith Fund
Grant and the Tim Hetherington Trust Visionary Award. Her projects have been profiled in Art in
America Magazine, Hyperallergic, European Photography Magazine, and the British Journal of
Photography, among many other publications.

Debi’s first book, Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay (Radius Books, 2017), was shortlisted for the Paris Photo-Aperture First Book Prize, les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles Photo-Text Award, and the Alice Award, nominated for an ICP Infinity Award, and named one of the year’s top-ten photo books in the New York Times Magazine. Her newest book, Necessary Fictions (Radius Books, 2020), was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize and shortlisted for les Rencontres d’Arles Photo-Text Book Award.