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Hidden Gems: Meet Salima Allen of Acid Smile Studios

Today we’d like to introduce you to Salima Allen.

Hi Salima, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I grew up in Santa Ana, CA and have always been interested in creation. My single mother always had to work to provide for us, and I spent a lot of time making things alone. I drew, took pictures, painted, made collages, played music, imagined my own zines… entertaining myself as an only child does.

Once I was older and finished fiddling around in Community College, I moved to LA and transferred to OTIS College of Art + Design a little over 9 years ago. I quickly (thankfully) discovered the Women’s Center for Creative Work (now The Feminist Center For Creative Work) and began to find my people in my new home. It was there that I met feminist-minded creators from all over Los Angeles and would later make important friendships and professional connections. After college, I worked at FCCW for years while developing my photography practice. I went to school for Illustration but fell in love with photography during my final semester at OTIS. FCCW gave me some of my first real opportunities photographing their wonderful community and later recommending me to other great places such as Otherwild (a queer-owned store that features an eco-friendly refill area). I did some product photography for Otherwild while sharpening my skills for my personal practice which includes still lives and portraits of the people and objects I love. Further down the line, I started my own photo business with my best friend and fellow OTIS graduate, Lan Shing DeSoto, and together we became Acid Smile Studios.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Some of the struggles I have faced along my path as an artist have been external and self-inflicted. I had to get creative about how to fund my projects many times, and for years I couldn’t figure out how much to charge for my services or how to feel confident about my worth as a creative. Money can be a difficult subject to talk about for folks (myself included), though I wish it wasn’t such a stressful topic.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Acid Smile Studios is a women of color-owned photo studio run by two best friends- myself (Salima Allen) and artist Lan Shing DeSoto. We specialize in unique colorful portraits but offer a wide range of photo services. We style the models, provide makeup, build sets, and take the photographs. We love collaborating with our clients and making magic with everyone we meet. We offer an experience that puts our clients at ease and feels playful and friendly. We strive to make our models comfortable and pride ourselves on consent and inclusivity.

Individually, I have photos up at the LA Central Library for their show ‘Something In Common’ (on view until November), and I am preparing for my first ever photo solo show at Junior High gallery (opening this September).

What was your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory is being alone in my room listening to music and getting lost in the flow of artmaking. I could spend hours in my room before realizing how much time had past. Music is so important to me and it was really special being able to have my own little uninterrupted world before the responsibilities of adulthood.


  • $300 For Package 1 (1-2 hours of studio time)
  • $600 For Package 2 (3-4 hours of studio time)

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Photography: Salima Allen MUA: Lan Shing DeSoto Creative Direction: Salima Allen + Lan Shing DeSoto

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