“Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play” is a meditation on displacement in the post-September 11 world. Almost 12 years after the U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay opened to house alleged enemy combatants in the “War on Terror,” 149 prisoners remain. More than half were cleared for release years ago. They are guarded by a force of thousands. Despite political pledges to close the prisons here, they continue to remain open. That which was intended to be temporary has become permanent.

The architecture on base aims to create a “normal” American atmosphere in a tropical paradise. But nothing here is normal. Everything is regulated, controlled, ordered. Military regulations prohibit photographing faces; any people depicted are turned away from the camera. How to tell the story of what is happening here without photographing people? My project was borne out of these very limitations.

To create a window into the lived reality for detainees and the military personnel who guard them, I looked for signs of life in both leisure and residential spaces, in graphic, formally composed images. By looking away from the obvious subject—the barbed wire, the orange jumpsuits—these images of empty human spaces offer a new perspective on America’s response to September 11.

—Debi Cornwall

Don’t miss the work of all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards 2014. In total, you’ll find 25 powerfully told stories from across the world.

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