Val was born in Nairobi, Kenya. She graduated from Napier College, Edinburgh, in 1984 with a Higher National Diploma in Photography and then moved to South Africa. During the five years spent as the Chief Photographer at the Playhouse Company she held two exhibitions. The first, Caught in the Act (1988), featured images of the theatre. Her second exhibition, AGFA's Textured Lives (1992) was sponsored by Agfa and toured the country extensively. This exhibition featured portraits of top performing artists in unusual outdoor settings. It was published by AGFA in 1994, as a coffee-table book.