Twenty-three years ago, documentary photographer Allison Shelley picked up a camera professionally. Shelley, a Pulitzer Center grantee, works freelance and has her photos published in TIME Magazine, The New York Times and her latest project “We are fighters, too” in the Washington Post.

“We are fighters, too” is an in-depth project that Shelley began in 2014 about women fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Working on an in-depth project like the one in the Congo allowed Shelley to show people another woman's reality.


“What I wanted to pull out was to layer the experience a little bit more,” Shelley said. “To show the complexity of life, to show that these are real people so that we can relate to them, so that we can connect with them better.” 



From photographing and telling the stories of women fighters in the Congo, to unsafe abortions in Nigeria, her work gives a voice to women. Shelley said her gender informs the work she does. Shelley’s story in the Congo dealt with the sensitive subject of war and rape, so her approach to the subject was calculated with gender in mind.

Jack Haley

Allison Shelley, Pulitzer Center grantee and documentary photographer, has been taking photos professionally since 1996.

“I am very conscious of myself as a woman and how that relates to their experiences,” Shelley said. “And also what are they comfortable telling me, sometimes that relates to the fact that I'm a woman.” 

Shelley is the cofounder and acting director of Women Photojournalists of Washington and said this nonprofit is meant to be a female-led support system for photojournalists.

“We've really tried to build it into a community of people, not just women,” Shelley said. “But the conversations are female-led and females sort of steered, but it's for everybody.”

As an advocate, Shelley advised female students to reach out to their peers.

“Connect with each other, use each other as resources,” Shelley said. 

Shelley, who has also done work in Senegal, India, Haiti and more, also said it is important for students to be globally engaged.

“You guys are future leaders and business owners and journalists and the people who are going to be steering us in the future,” Shelley said about Elon University students.  

Shelley will be giving Elon’s Pulitzer Center Lecture at 7 p.m. tonight in McEwen Building 013.