It was a Monday afternoon when Debi Cornwall landed in Guantánamo Bay. A guard checked her passport but didn’t stamp it–she was technically still on U.S. soil. After eight months of waiting and a thorough background check, she was finally set to start shooting her project “Gitmo At Home, Gitmo At Play.” She knew she would have limited access to prisoners, but she still wanted to tell the story of what she saw as an injustice: the one of men being held prisoners for years on end without formal arrest, without trial, without transparency and without conviction. But being on base, she also got to spend time with their captors, which broadened her perspective, and her project. She met with R&K in Brooklyn.
Roads & Kingdoms: This is your first photo project in a long time, why return to photography with a story on Guantánamo?
Debi Cornwall: I spent my career as a lawyer doing civil rights litigation on behalf of wrongly-convicted people across the United States. I wanted to look at some of the same questions but from a perspective that was less one of fighting for a cause than it was inviting people to look at what they might not have otherwise chosen to. Given that more than half of the remaining 149 prisoners in Guantánamo Bay were cleared for release years ago and there seems to be no real movement towards closing it, and that Guantánamo is this unseen mysterious place for Americans, it seemed like the perfect first project.