Aisley Herndon and Allie Sayre-Phillis, the founders of Studio 31. (Photo by Abbey Marshall)

Akron’s first “selfie studio” aims to be a hub for all creatives

By Abbey Marshall

Studio 31 wants to help you take the ultimate selfie.

The Babe Cave, located in the basement of the recently opened Akron photography studio in Ellet, is the culmination of creative efforts by local photographers Aisley Herndon, 18, and Allie Sayre-Phillis, 30.

“As an editorial photographer, I shoot a lot of stuff that is out there with artsy and creative angles,” Aisley says. “I’ve had a lot of ideas over the years. Normally, you put these sets together, but you’re going to just tear them down immediately, especially if you don’t have a permanent space. I was wondering how we could keep concepts up for longer for more photographers to use.”

Inspired by a trip to Shutterbox selfie studio in Warren, Aisley concocted the idea of providing pre-staged sets for anyone, not just photographers, to take photos of themselves and friends for unique, studio-grade social media posts.

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The two began exploring new mediums of art beyond their cameras and ventured into set creation, where they played with  perspective, style and color theory to create a captivating photo.

The result was 12 unique, interactive sets, ranging from a corner with televisions sprawling across a newspaper-plastered floor to a whimsical cloud wall composed of stuffing suspended by fishing line with colorful LED lights. 

For $20 per person per hour, an individual or group can book the entirety of the selfie studio and its sets. Each month, they will rotate out a set and replace it with a new one.

After Aisley, who has more than 133,000 followers on her personal photography account, posted a video of the sets to TikTok, a popular video sharing website, their studio went viral with hundreds of thousands of views, proving they did exactly what they set out to do: Create a space for content that performs exceptionally well on social media.

@studio31akron

tix are available now!!! 🤩🖤 Get this to Ohio tiktok!!

♬ original sound – Studio 31 Akron

After they opened on May 1, they had more than 350 bookings for the first week with some customers driving hours for the attraction.

“To finally see it coming to fruition, see people book it, see our creative efforts come to life, see the pictures people take get posted: it’s hard not to be emotional about it,” Allie says. 

Now the duo wants to capitalize on their social media success and roll out a hub for all Akron-area photographers and creatives.

“We really picture this being the spot for all creatives. In the basement, we offer a space for people interested in not only photography, but modeling and fashion. We’ve had boutiques reach out about taking photos, but we also picture music videos, bridal parties, stuff like that. We don’t want anything to look the same. It’s sort of surprising and cool how every photographer makes the same sets look so different.”

In the offices upstairs, they plan to launch a coworking space to attract working creatives with desks, WiFi and community.

“I like the idea of people coming in and working alongside each other and meeting new creatives,” Allie says. “COVID put all of my social endeavors back for a whole year. I’m looking forward to meeting people and finding ways for all of us to get better at our crafts.”

They also want to offer a “blank canvas” for photographers looking for studio space. Unlike the Babe Cave’s preset backdrops, the first-floor photography studio will offer professionals a paper backdrop they can personalize and customize with various furniture pieces Allie and Aisley have curated in the studio.

A second-floor bedroom will also be available to rent for photographers interested in doing boudoir shots.

“With my boudoir photography, I was renting a lot of AirBnbs, which got expensive especially if you were only using it for a few hours,” Allie says. “Different places would give me inspiration, so now it’s nice to have our own setups and pull from various places. Each day I can decide, ‘Am I feeling moody? Whimsical?’ Other photographers will be able to do the same.”

Aisley, a high school senior taking college courses at Kent State, and Allie, a full-time banker and wedding photographer, both enjoy seeing the world through the lenses of their cameras, though neither envisioned being able to run and operate their own studio. The two were connected by Aisley’s mom, who works with Allie.

“It’s been a lot of work, and it was a big risk to take,” Allie says. “I’m a full time banker. I started my photography business a year ago. I had no idea it would turn into what it did. I never saw myself doing studio shoots or having a studio.” 

The pair quips that their skillsets, personalities and photography styles — Aisley is interested in eclectic and bold editorial-style portraits and Allie in couples and wedding photography — complement each other well.

Now, they are eager to bring more photographers into the fold.

“We really want this space to be like a home for people,” Aisley says. “I am excited to build a community of people here in Akron who just want to create.”

Abbey Marshall covers economic development for The Devil Strip via Report for America. Reach her at abbey@thedevilstrip.com.

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