Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (PPAC) will feature Debi Cornwall’s “Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay” exhibition from June 14 – August 25, 2018. In addition to hosting an Opening Reception and Artist Talk on Thursday, June 14 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm, PPAC will also welcome Cornwall for a Panel Discussion entitled “Rendered: Art, Wrongful Imprisonment, and Guantánamo” on Thursday, June 28 at 6pm.
The solo exhibition takes audiences back to 2002, when the US opened the first “War on Terror” prison at the United States Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo). It investigates the human experience of Gitmo for both prisoners and guards, through their residential and leisure spaces (Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play series), and gift-shop souvenirs (Gitmo on Sale series). In the 16 years since its prisons opened, Gitmo has housed 780 “detainees.” The majority have been cleared and released, returning home or transferred to third countries. In the “Beyond Gitmo” series, Cornwall collaborates with 14 former prisoners in nine countries, from Albania to Qatar, plus a former guard, to make environmental portraits replicating, in the free world, the military’s “no faces” rule.
The Panel Discussion taking place on June 28 will focus on the inspiration behind Cornwall’s exhibition. It will be moderated by Fred Ritchin, Dean Emeritus of the International Center of Photography (ICP) School and, in addition to Cornwall herself, feature:
- Emily Abendroth, co-founder of the Lifelines Project and How We Are Free traveling exhibition
- Cristi A. Charpentier, Federal Defender
- Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Gitmo detainee (Skyping in from Mauritania)
The exhibition has been shown in Switzerland, South Korea, and China. The Steven Kasher Gallery hosted the U.S. debut in 2017, and the exhibition has been awarded the inaugural Fotofest Charles Jing Fellowship, a juried prize. Cornwall’s book of the same title, published by Radius, was nominated for a 2018 ICP Infinity Award, shortlisted for the 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture First PhotoBook Award and the 2017 Les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles Photo-Text Book Award, and named among the year’s 10 best photo books by the New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Mother Jones, 1000 Words Magazine, and others.
Cornwall is a conceptual documentary artist who returned to visual expression in 2014 after a 12-year career as a civil rights lawyer. Her work examines American power and identity in the post-9/11 era through photographs, archives, text, and sound.