Dan Eldon

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Dan Eldon
Daniel Robert Eldon

(1970-09-18)18 September 1970
Hampstead, London, England, UK
Died12 July 1993(1993-07-12) (aged 22)
Mogadishu, Somalia
Cause of death Beating
OccupationJournalist, artist, activist

Daniel Robert "Dan" Eldon (18 September 1970 – 12 July 1993) was a British-Kenyan photojournalist, artist and activist, killed in Somalia while working as a Reuters photojournalist. He left behind a series of journals, which Chronicle Books used to publish four books, among them The Journey Is the Destination, The Art of Life, and Safari as a Way of Life.


Early life

Dan Eldon, born in London, on September 18, 1970, was the son of Kathy and Mike Eldon. Mike was an Israel-born British citizen of Jewish descent, and his American mother was Protestant of German and Irish immigrant descent. [1] [2] When Dan was seven years old, Eldon and his three-year-old sister Amy moved to Nairobi, Kenya with their parents. The couple later divorced; Mike Eldon is now married to a Kenyan woman, Evelyn Mungai (Transparency International, Kenya), and Kathy is now married to American designer, Michael Bedner.

In Kenya, Dan Eldon attended a British school, but soon convinced his parents to transfer him to the International School of Kenya, which included children representing over 40 nationalities. In 1982, an attempted coup in Kenya put the family in the midst of political upheaval. Eldon, aged 12, arrived back in Kenya from a summer holiday several days after the coup and experienced some of its aftermath. In his teens, Eldon joined his mother, Kathy, a freelance journalist for the English-language newspaper, the Nation, in Kenya. Soon, Eldon was taking pictures, which were featured in local newspapers and magazines.

At 14, Eldon started a fundraising campaign for open-heart surgery to save the life of Atieno, a young Kenyan girl. Together with his sister and friends, he raised $5,000 for a successful heart operation. At the age of 15, Eldon helped support a Maasai family by buying handmade beaded jewelry made by the mother, Kipenget, and selling it to fellow students and friends. It was during this time that Dan began creating journals filled with collages, photographs, and drawings. He often used satire and cartoons as commentary. He kept the journals as personal statements, which he shared with only a few people.

In 1988, Dan graduated from the International School of Kenya, winning the International Relations and Community Service awards. Voted most outstanding student, he addressed his class, emphasising the importance of crossing cultural barriers and caring for others. [3]


Throughout his life, Eldon travelled extensively, visiting 46 countries. In addition, he studied seven languages in and out of school.

In the autumn of 1988, Eldon began his “year off” before university. He called it a “year on”; for him, it felt more challenging than college. He left Kenya for a job at Mademoiselle magazine in New York.

In January, Eldon enrolled in Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. That summer, he and a friend researched a journey that would lead Eldon and a group of young people from Nairobi to Malawi, driving a Land Rover across five countries. [4] They found that staying in local jails was the safest solution to security problems, and often spent the night locked up in cells to the amusement of the prison guards.

With the information he had obtained on his trip, Eldon, who had transferred to UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), set up a charity named Student Transport Aid. This attracted the interest of local television stations and newspapers. With the help of 15 friends, he raised $25,000 for a venture to a refugee camp in Malawi. The friends, representing six countries, met in Nairobi and travelled thousands of miles in three vehicles. There, they donated one of their vehicles to the Save the Children Fund, as well as money for three wells and blankets for a children's hospital. Team members included Christopher Nolan (director of the Batman Dark Knight Trilogy), Roko Belic (Oscar-nominated director of Genghis Blues ), Elinor Tatum (publisher of the New York Amsterdam News), Amy Eldon Turteltaub (producer and author), and Jeffrey Gettleman (Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times bureau chief for East Africa).

Eldon returned to UCLA in the autumn of 1990 and began to plan another venture, which necessitated a move to London in January. He attended Richmond College and in the meantime, purchased another Land Rover for a trip to Morocco that summer. He aimed to buy bracelets and belts to sell in America for Student Transport Aid. He was attacked by Moroccan thieves and delayed by Land Rover malfunctions. He spent a fitful summer in Marrakesh, before arriving home in time to ship $5,000 worth of goods to America, which he sold on the beaches of Southern California.

In 1991, he returned to UCLA for one academic year, all the time planning his next trip, which was to be across the Sahara. Early in 1992, he moved to Mount Vernon, Iowa, to attend classes at Cornell College.

Film career

In April of that year, Eldon flew to Kenya, where he was a third assistant director on a feature film, Lost in Africa . As the most junior person on the production crew, he was often awake at 5:00 a.m., and was usually the last in bed. [5]

During the summer of 1992, the famine in Somalia raged. Eldon flew to the Kenyan refugee camps. The international news agency, Reuters, spotted his work, and he was soon working for the company, shooting the increasingly desperate situation. He followed the story closely and was present at the US Marine landing, where a barrage of international photographers and journalists were waiting for the American soldiers as they left their landing craft in Mogadishu.

Eldon stayed in Mogadishu through the spring. During this time, Eldon's pictures were featured in newspapers and magazines around the world. On 12 June 1993, his photo made a double-page spread in Newsweek magazine, as well as the covers of newspapers everywhere.[ specify ] Meanwhile, Pakistani peacekeepers died, making the conflict an international incident, the violence and horror of which was very hard on Eldon. He was nicknamed Warsame, Mayor of Mogadishu by Mogadishans for his friendliness.


Despite having "had enough" by June, Eldon stayed to cover events. On 12 July 1993, he, Associated Press photographer Hansi Krauss, Reuters soundman Anthony Macharia, and Reuters photographer Hos Maina covered the United Nations raid to arrest rebel leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid at a house he was believed to have been occupying. [6] Survivors of the raid went to the journalists' hotel requesting them to take pictures. In a convoy, under the protection of Somalis, Eldon and a group of colleagues went to the bombed area. As they began to take photographs, a mob attacked the journalists. Eldon and his colleagues Krauss, Macharia and Maina were stoned and beaten to death.

Film adaptation

It was announced in The New York Times on 28 December 2007, that Eldon would be the focus of a biographical film entitled The Journey Is the Destination, the title of which is based on a page from Dan's journals featured in the book of the same name published by Chronicle Books. The film was directed by Bronwen Hughes and produced by Martin Katz, Kathy Eldon, Richard Arlook and Kweku Mandela (a grandson of Nelson Mandela) and was shot in South Africa from July to September 2014. The film, starring Ben Schnetzer, Kelly Macdonald, and Maria Bello, premiered in 2016 [7] at the Toronto Film Festival and was released on Netflix in October 2017.

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  1. "Young photographer exposed Somalia's horrors". CNN.
  2. "Dan & Amy Eldon". The MY HERO Project. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  3. New, Jennifer: "Dan Eldon: The Art of Life", page 74. Creative Visions, 2001.
  4. New, Jennifer. "Dan Eldon: The Art of Life", page 147. Creative Visions, 2001.
  5. New, Jennifer. "Dan Eldon: The Art of Life", page 198. Creative Visions, 2001.
  6. Smith, David (30 December 2007). "Wizard to play the magician of Somalia". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  7. ""The Journey is the Destination (2016)", Internet Movie Database".