Kristi Elias’ fine art portrait photography transports her subjects through space and time to capture the essence of their personality or to emphasize their vocation or passion. The five-year-old subject of this Sunset Print Award winner is competitive in martial arts, so Elias sent him underground and created an image that exudes toughness.
Entitled You Won’t Bully Me, the print scored a 91 at the Professional Photographers of California annual state competition. It’s a show-stopping image that grabbed the judges’ attention.
“It has impact because it’s shocking. You don’t expect to see a kid looking that tough at that age in what is clearly a rough urban underground area,” says Elias. “I cropped into the top of his head to give it more of a forced perspective, which makes him look tougher. The overall color palette I used also portrays aggression and toughness, which is what I was going for.”
Photographed in Kristi Sutton Elias Photography’s waterfront studio in Long Beach, Calif., she used water and glycerin for the sweat dripping off of him. She added the background in Photoshop using Nik Software filters and her own set of Photoshop actions and estimates she spent about three hours getting everything just right.
“The background was shot on one of my vacations in Argentina of an abandoned underground area. It’s actually two different images I put together. I wanted it to look very dynamic. Whenever we travel I Google ahead of time and find remote, abandoned, strange areas and use them in my portraits all the time,” explains Elias. “People want that 30×40 wow portrait that you notice immediately when you walk into their homes. Because of that I get a lot of cool and eccentric clients.”