© Francesca Allen

Francesca Allen photographs women across California

“Oh my gosh, it’s thick!” “Yeah, it’s super ropey. It is not that the tattoo was thick, it just bled a lot.” “Did it hurt?” “A lot – I was 18 and I did it myself.” 

Photographer Francesca Allen is sitting in a small neighbourhood park in Los Angeles with Maly, an artist who lives just around the corner. Officially, Allen is here to take Maly’s photograph but, for the time being, they are content just comparing tattoos. “I want to cover my body with my friends’ art,” says Maly, pointing to the dainty inkings dotted up and down her arms. “These little mountains are a stick and poke of a photograph I took in New Mexico. Oh Baby is an Ariel Pink song – I’m really crazy into music.”

Both freelance artists working out of ambitious and creative cities, Allen and Maly have plenty in common. For the next hour or so their conversation pinballs from topic to topic; the two have only just met but it is as if they have known each other for years. The conversation continues for some time. For the next half hour we discuss the ins and outs of Maly’s life as a 20-something-year-old creative living in LA: housemates, arts education, shaved heads, playing in a band. Eventually Allen sets about taking Maly’s portrait, briefly pausing when another tangent of discussion erupts. 

Words: Anya Lawrence

Photographers Clément Chapillon, Francesca Allen, Brant Slomovic, and Ricardo Nagaoka spent 10 days travelling across California. The project was organised by Studio 1854, in partnership with Visit California. The four resulting bodies of work shed light on the lesser-known sides of the state; Allen used the opportunity to photograph women. 

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