Edition 2024



1 July - 29 September 2024

10.00 AM - 07.30 PM



Over the last decade, Debi Cornwall has been investigating the fictions fueling America’s idea of itself. Her vivid, formally composed color documentary photographs serve more to provoke than to inform, inviting a closer examination of how state power is performed, consumed, and normalized.

This exhibition features two bodies of work representing two sides of the same coin. What are the stories power tells, the games it plays, to manage unsettling realities? Necessary Fictions frames this question through the lens of immersive, realistic wargames. On ten military bases across the United States, Debi Cornwall documents mock-village landscapes in the fictional country of “Atropia” and its population, roleplayers who enact versions of their past or future selves in realistic training scenarios. Costumed Afghan and Iraqi civilians, many who fled war, now recreate it in the service of the U.S. military. Real soldiers preparing to deploy practice their possible futures as fighters or casualties of war.

How do staging, performance and roleplay inform ideas about citizenship in a violent land whose people no longer agree on what is true? Model Citizens considers the United States as a case study into this global phenomenon, with images made in three kinds of sites: immersive, realistic training scenarios at the U.S. Border Patrol Academy, Donald Trump’s right-wing “Save America” rallies, and historical museums staging Americans as heroic victors or innocent victims. Jarringly juxtaposed images from these apparently unrelated sites illuminate systems that reconcile, justify, or distract from the violence pervading a militarized culture.

Nathalie Herschdorfer and Lydia Dorner

Curators: Nathalie Herschdorfer and Lydia Dorner.

Exhibition coproduced by Photo Elysée, Lausanne and the Rencontres d’Arles.

Publications: Citoyens Modèles, Éditions Textuel, 2024;
Model Citizens, Radius Books, 2024.

Model Citizens was awarded the 2023 Prix Elysée.
This prize is the result of an exclusive partnership between Photo Elysée and Parmigiani Fleurier.

  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture