Valerie Plesch is an independent first-generation American-Vietnamese-Argentinian photojournalist, documentary photographer and writer based in Washington, D.C. where she covers politics, protests, immigration and other issues for editorial assignments.
Her long-term work explores the intersection of the aftermath of wars, memory, identity, and trauma.
Since early 2021, she's been documenting the growing Afghan community in the Washington, DC area and the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees who fled Afghanistan in recent months and years. As a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grantee working on Afghan refugee resettlement stories, she explored and chronicled challenges faced by refugees who evacuated to the United States during and after the Taliban takeover.
Leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, she spent months photographing inside the Vietnamese American community in northern Virginia where she grew up for a feature story about how the pain and trauma from the Vietnam War played a significant role in Vietnamese American voters’ choice for president.
From 2014-2019, she was based in Pristina, Kosovo where she focused on how the world's second newest nation confronted its wartime past. She also covered breaking news, human rights issues, religion, sports, politics, and culture. Some of her most memorable reporting experiences from the Balkans include shadowing Kosovo's first female president for an in-depth profile, shooting a video about Kosovo's first Olympic gold medalist, photographing Kosovo's first major music festival headlined by global pop singer Dua Lipa, and covering the refugee crisis on the Greek-North Macedonian border. She also spent several months in 2018 and 2019 photographing and interviewing rape survivors from the war as part of a long-term photo documentary project on the legacy of sexual violence. In 2014 she reported from Kabul, Afghanistan during the historic presidential election and produced other feature stories, including one about the future of the Afghan National Army and a long-form story about an ancient archaeological site in Logar province that is home to some of Central Asia’s oldest Buddhist artifacts that also happens to be buried under one of the largest copper mines in the world.
Before pursuing her passion for visual storytelling, Valerie held a decade-long career in the international development field implementing USAID-funded projects. Her work took her to post-conflict and post-disaster countries including Afghanistan, where she lived for one year, Pakistan, Indonesia, Haiti, Thailand and Vietnam.
M.Sc. in journalism from the Columbia University School of Journalism, 2013
B.A in political science from Colorado College, 2002
Foundry Photojournalism Workshop 2022
Women Photograph Virtual Workshop, 2020
No Man’s Land: A Workshop for Women – VII Agency, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2019
Course in battlefield medical response through Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC) in Jahorina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2018
Hostile Environment Awareness Training in Afghanistan (2016) and Jordan (2011)
Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Bali, Indonesia, 2015
Publications and Exhibitions
The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal, PBS NewsHour, USA Today, Al Jazeera English, NPR, VICE, DCist/WAMU, Stern, Education Week, The Hechinger Report, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Al Jazeera America, Reuters, Financial Times Magazine, Politico, FRONTLINE, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Times, Roads & Kingdoms, Religion News Service, PRI's the World, Global Post, Open Society Foundation, Equal Times, The Telegraph, AJ+, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Women's Media Center.
Corporate and non-profit clients include Rana Labs, Arnold Ventures, Washington National Cathedral, The National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, Vinyl Institute, Night Shift Development, National Association of Manufacturers, American Association for the Advancement of Science
WPOW Annual Photography Exhibition 2023, Lost Origins Outside, Washington, D.C.
WPOW Annual Photography Exhibition 2022, Lost Origins Outside, Washington, D.C.
8th edition of the Eyes on Main Street international photography festival in Wilson, NC (2022-2023)
7th edition of the Eyes on Main Street international photography festival in Wilson, NC (2021-2022)
Country Work Experience
Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Haiti, Indonesia, Kosovo, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, North Macedonia, Pakistan, Senegal, Serbia, Somalia, Thailand, United States, Vietnam.