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The first photos were raw and voyeuristic, as if the shooter were a vacationer taking a scenic tour through hell.

A dead body, left for Baghdad's feral dogs on the side of the road. A soldier, his rifle aimed down a derelict street as a group of Iraqi men stood behind him and laughed. A group of Iraqi women walking with a small child, blurred in an image Tyler Norager shot as his armored Humvee rumbled by.

The 21-year-old soldier from Clinton had sent the images home inside a camera that had been destroyed when his truck was hit by a roadside bomb. The blast sent shrapnel into Norager's face, neck and back and killed two men in his Humvee.

But it gave life to a new way of looking at the world for Norager.

Now home on leave for a few weeks before he must return to his duty station in Germany, Norager this evening will be at the Utah Arts Festival Gallery, where those first crude shots are being displayed alongside a set of deeper, more contemplative images he captured as the war took more of his comrades.

Back home, Utah photographer Cat Palmer, who is a friend of Norager's aunt, was invited to come look at the images taken from the busted camera.

She was spellbound.

"I'd never seen anything like it," she said. "There was a documentary nature to these photos, but they also had so much passion."

Palmer scraped together her earnings from the Utah Arts Festival and bought Norager a new camera. "The salesmen just laughed when I asked if it was warranted against explosions," she said.

Palmer anxiously awaited Norager's next set of images. But when the soldier finally posted the photos on his MySpace page, something had changed. The pictures were softer, with tighter crops and more emotion.

A soldier praying, his dog tags clutched firmly in folded hands. The inverted rifle and empty boots of another of Norager's slain comrades. A row of bullets standing on end around a jeweled cross.

"No one ever told me my photos were good," Norager explained. After hearing Palmer's praise, he said, he decided to spend more time thinking about his shots.

But Palmer saw something else.

"Something had changed in him in that explosion and I was seeing it in his photos," Palmer said. "There was so much emotion. And you could feel his bitterness and his anger."

Palmer, whose anti-war-themed work had won her widespread recognition among Utah's artists, had already envisioned showing Norager's work alongside hers in a show.

"But how do you tell a soldier that you're against the war he's fighting in?" she wondered.

But as Palmer got to know Norager during a short leave period, then through e-mails, and finally - and especially - through his photographs, she came to understand that no one hated this war more than her new friend.

On Thursday, Norager saw the images for the first time in the state in which they are being displayed at the gallery: blown up, arranged with anti-war quotes and mounted on sheet metal by Palmer.

"I want people to come in here and feel as though they've been punched in the gut," Palmer explained to the soldier as they strolled from photograph to photograph.

"Good," Norager agreed, stopping at a shot of a dead Iraqi man, his body covered with a dirty white sheet and his shoes hanging from the end of a sidewalk. "Me too."

"People here, they're more worried about the next American Idol than they are about the next American soldier," he said. "All you see is Britney Spears shaved her head and O.J. Simpson got arrested again."

So much, he said, for a grateful nation.

Before he left for Iraq, Norager said, "I felt like I was doing the right thing, like there must be some reason for us being there."

But after losing 14 men from his company, Norager said, "it just seemed like we were just driving around getting blown up."

All the while, back in Utah, the young soldier's daughter, Makenna, was growing up without him.

"She was 7 months old before he saw her," said Norager's wife, Shalee.

Tyler Norager said he wouldn't have gotten to see his daughter until much longer if it hadn't been for the death of another comrade, Ryan Wood.

"I got to come home to go to the funeral," Norager said. "His mother requested it."

Several pen and ink drawings by Wood are also featured in the exhibit.

The drawings are hung above a small display of 14 candles - a memorial to Norager's fallen brothers, the inspiration for his art.

* What: Artist reception

* When: Today, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

* Where: Utah Arts Festival gallery, 230 S. 500 West, No. 120