“Debi Cornwall knew she would not be allowed to take undeveloped negatives out of the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay. So she came to the notorious detention facility with her own color developing kit.”
Featured in New York Times’ Best Photo Books of 2017.
Welcome to Camp America is a delineated and baffling glimpse into the U.S. Naval Station located at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. This book highlights the station’s growing diaspora, through once-classified government documents, photographs, and first-person accounts.
Photographer Debi Cornwall has decided to let the book greets us with its gut-wrenching cover photo and an ironic title. The cover image is of a gloomy, white recliner chair abandoned awkwardly in the corner of a room, with creepy ankle chains bolted to the floor in front of it. The location in the cover photo is known as the “Compliant Detainee Media Room.”
This book consists of 14 loose-leaf inserts, with slanted portraits of the earlier detainees, and their horrifying stories printed in both Arabic and English. The subsequent pages contain their recorded testimonies and related documents.
Welcome to Camp America is more like a confidential report, a collection of criminal evidence, interrogations, interviews, testimonies, and photos. The nature of the language used in these documents are often clinical, icy and deprived of any sense of humanity. Even more horrifying is the list of testimonies given by the people who have endured the cruel violence and torture. The photographs shown in the heart-wrenching pages of this book, reveal a cranky, farcical-looking reality, floating on the tides of un-certain contradictions.
With a unique formation of the content in both English and Arabic, Welcome to Camp America endeavors to achieve a common ground while raising instigating questions related to the compromises made between humanity and fear, post the 9/11 era.
Welcome to Camp America is Brooklyn-based conceptual documentary artist and former civil rights attorney Debi Cornwall’s vivid and disorienting glimpse into the US Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba―known as “Gitmo”―through photographs, once-classified government documents, and first-person accounts.
The book gathers three series: Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play showing residential and leisure spaces of both prisoners and guards; Gitmo on Sale, depicting the commodification of American military power through gift-shop souvenirs; and Beyond Gitmo, investigating life after detention with 14 men once held as accused terrorists, now cleared and freed, living in nine countries from Albania to Qatar. Environmental portraits in the free world replicate conditions of military regulation photography at Guantánamo Bay: no faces are shown.
With unique construction in English and Arabic, the book seeks common ground while asking provocative questions about compromises made between humanity and fear in the post-9/11 era.