There must be something in Alberta waters that breeds champion photographers. Nine out of 24 photographers on Team Canada for the 2024 World Photographic Cup (WPC) are from our province.
One photographer out of the uber-talented bunch is St. Albert’s own Kari Carter, a retired sergeant who spent 18 years in the Canadian Forces. Her Team Canada photo is titled Fabricated Beauty, a portrait of young woman in the Illustration/Digital category. The head and shoulders image criticizes how society puts pressure on the female sex to always look physically attractive.
“Women are pressured to always look beautiful, and women try to keep life together and be perfect. We don’t need to be perfect. We’re beautiful as we are,” said Carter.
Fabricated Beauty is a manipulated image of her daughter, Brooke, as the young woman was preparing to jump in the shower.
“She had a towel wrapped around her and I held up a light over her head and took four images. She kept saying, ‘hurry up, mom.’ I could tell she wasn’t in the mood,” Carter said, laughing while reminiscing on the quick session.
“A lot of the image is manipulated in Photoshop using different layers and textures. I manipulated the eye colour and the shape of her face. I added lipstick and crackling.”
An accredited photographer with Professional Photographers of Canada, Carter’s work revolves around capturing portraits of people and animals. Experimenting through the digital world allows her to expand her creative boundaries.
The WPC has provided an outlet for those creative juices to flow. The photographic competition has 10 categories that range from portraits, commercial and nature, to wedding, sports and photo-journalism. Team Canada is built with three top-tier images in each category.
“When I received an email saying I was part of Team Canada, I was stunned. I was at a photographic conference in Fort McMurray when the email came in. I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t imagine I was selected,” said Carter.
In April, these images will be showcased in Dallas, Texas at a medal presentation, with one country receiving the World Photographic Cup.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve already won,” said Carter. Once the competition is finished, the team’s photos will go on display at selected regions across Canada, including the 2024 Calgary Stampede.
For the local photographer, the process of creation is more than a form of artistic expression. It is a therapeutic outlet that fills her with a great deal of joy and healing. Much of her success stems from the discipline, dedication and adaptability she developed in the military.
Originally from Ontario, Carter joined the Canadian Forces after her parents were in an automobile collision that killed her mother and severely injured her father. He was unable to work and Danielle, her teenage sister, needed care.
“I was 23," Carter said. "I took guardianship of my sister, and I needed a job quickly to support my family. I joined the military. I couldn’t go to college. There was a lack of funds. By choosing a career in the military, I could get paid while training. Times were different then. You did what you had to do.”
She worked as a cook, mainly on the catering side. She was also posted to the Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME) school for a few years working with the new troops coming into the Forces. The RCEME maintain and support all Forces land-based equipment.
Her career came to an abrupt end after taking part in a mandatory battle fitness test.
“You had to walk 13 kilometres with a rucksack, dig a trench and drag a weight a certain distance. There were spikes on the bottom of the weight and when I pulled, I created a herniated disc in my back. The disc actually went into the vertebrae. There was bone rubbing on bone. I had two surgeries and an implant in the spine.”
Healing was difficult and Carter was medically released in 2016. After spending nearly two decades at a career where every day is structured and pre-planned, she was at a loss.
“The military is family, and when you leave, you lose so much," Carter said. "The camaraderie is genuine and there is a sense of belonging. A lot of veterans get lost when they try to live and function and be proud of something else again. Now I lose myself in photography. I have a purpose. When you are in the military, you live in a bubble. When I left, I didn’t even have a health card.”
While pondering the future, Carter decided to take her photography hobby to the next level. She enrolled in Georgian College in Barrie, Ont., where she graduated in 2021 with a Technical Excellence Award. And in 2023, her husband who is also in the Canadian Forces, was transferred to the Edmonton region.
“I’m blown away I made Team Canada. If this is it, I’m pretty pleased.”