The Myth

“Ultimately, on that day, I didn’t even come close to dying.  But I thought I might.  And finally facing the ultimate fear was what it took for me to truly wake up and start to live.” 

   Craig Tanner, The Myth of Talent  

Craig Tanner is a professional photographer, founding member of The Radiant Vista, and passionate photographic teacher based out of Atlanta Georgia, but he is more than that to me, he is a personal friend.  I met Craig at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula Montana back during the summer of 2004.  I have just arrived back in America after about 13 months overseas, with 11 of that in Baghdad Iraq.  Needless to say I was a bit shell shocked, both by living in Iraq, and equally by returning to the overwhelming American way of life.  I was in Montana to build on something that I had learned in Iraq, and to re-center myself.

My photography prior to Iraq was a hobby that came and went in my life from the time I first saw a B/W print come to life in a 9th grade art class.  Before going to Iraq the desire for photography had just returned to the forefront of my thoughts, but I was weighed down with the idea that it would never be more than a “serious hobby”.  Little did I know that I was being controlled by some of the factors that Craig points out in his essay.

Like Craig, I did not come close to dying in Iraq, although during the numerous rocket and mortar attacks I could have.  I never had an IED blow up near or under a vehicle I was riding in, but it could have.  Although I never got hurt, I did attend many memorial services for soldiers who had not got to live their post Iraq dreams.  “When I get back to the World” is what many of the soldiers and I talked about in Iraq….what we were doing to do when we started living again.  After living with the true feeling that each day could be the last, and seeing that in fact it was for some people, you begin to value each moment more, and you begin to see that the “some day” that we all evoke when talking about our dreams may in fact never come.

This is the environment that pushed me into action, pushed me to finally follow my calling to be a photographer and artist.  Is it common for a former Army Paratrooper, turned defense contractor to become an artist?  I really don’t think so, but who cares.  I remember saying to myself, that if I made it through Iraq I was FINALLY going to start living.  The truth is, by volunteering to go to Iraq, I had already taken the first step to living.

No matter what you always tell yourself that you are going to do “someday”, be it something with photography or some other art, or going back to school, or taking a trip to Australia (which I did because I always wanted to), then get too it!  Follow your own heart and spirit  and you will discover a great lesson in happiness that many fail to learn.  Stop putting off the first step to your dreams, take it and begin the adventure.

 Thanks for reading… go create something!


~ by Phil Nesmith on July 17, 2007.

One Response to “The Myth”

  1. Hi Phil, Thanks for introducing me to your work. I’m not sure whether the soldier-to-artist transition is uncommon or not, but thought you might be interested to learn my maternal grandfather followed a similar path. Lewen Basel Tugwell was a major in the British army before retiring, and then worked as a professional sculptor for the rest of his life. — Roan

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