Debi Cornwall | Brooklyn NY, United States

Short bio:
I trained in photography at RISD while completing my Bachelor’s degree in Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. After working 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. My background representing innocent DNA exonerees inform my visual work. “Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play” is my first project since returning to photography in 2014.

Why do you photograph on film?
On my third trip to the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, I wanted to engage with the temporary/permanent dialectic embodied by the indefinite detention of 122 men there. While digital images are regularly deleted by military authorities without a trace, to censor a physical negative would leave a record. A censor ultimately did cut one of my negatives (#10) with scissors to redact the last name of Zak, the Muslim cultural advisor, from a plaque in his office.

What is your work about?
13 years after the first alleged “enemy combatants” arrived at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, 122 men remain imprisoned at “Gitmo,” half cleared for release years ago. “Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play” explores the grim absurdity of daily life there through images of residential and leisure spaces of detainees and guards. As a condition of negotiating special access to the prisons with analog equipment, I had to hand develop the color film under the watch of military escorts.