By Peter Canby
Dan Eldon was only twenty-two when, at the height of conflict in Somalia, he and three other journalists were chased down by a mob enraged at a United Nations helicopter attack and stoned to death. The year was 1993. Eldon was among the first to document the famine in Somalia; he had risen rapidly through the ranks of war photographers, with spreads in Time, Newsweek, and Stern. But, as "The Journey Is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon" shows, he was an artist as well. The son of an English father and an American mother, he grew up in Nairobi, where he became fascinated by the mixture of European and African cultures and learned to speak fluent Swahili. At fifteen, he began recording his life in a series of eclectic, exuberantly collaged journals, which incorporate everything from his own drawings and paintings to stamps, matchbook covers, photographs of his friends, and self-portraits.
By the time Eldon died, he had compiled seventeen journals, the last of which -- according to his mother, Kathy, who edited the published selection -- consisted, uncharacteristically, of his Somalia photographs mounted on plain white paper. Eldon was a popular figure in Somalia, but he'd become depressed by seeing the Africa he loved crumbling around him. In one of his journals he quotes Plato: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."
Lest the Picture Fade
By Joshua Hammer
For Kathy Eldon the trip was the climax of a four-year obsession. On a blazingly hot day, last September, Eldon, her daughter, Amy, a television crew and 40 Somali bodyguards rode through the streets of Mogadishu to the rubble of a large cinder-block house. Here, on July 12, 1993, a U.N. helicopter fired missiles into a group of suspected aides to warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid, killing 80 people. Minutes after the attack, Kathy's son, Dan Eldon, 22, and three other foreign jounalists were cornered by an angry mob and stoned and beaten to death. Now, as mother and daughter approached the killing site to film a documentary, another hostile crowd gathered. "They were screaming 'Get these foreigners out, we don't want to remember that horrible day'," says Kathy Eldon, 51. "We piled back into the vehicles and left in a hurry." She was both shaken and strangely elated by the experience. "There was a curious sense of joy that we'd been there and seen where he died," she says.
Kathy Eldon has not grieved quietly. Over the past four years, she has traveled across three continents--and repeatedly relived her son's horrifying end--in a quest to commemorate his brief, eventful life. She has found an eager audience. Last month Chronicle Books published "The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon," a collection of vibrant collages created by Dan from the age of 13 until his death. The book has already sold nearly 30,000 copies, and a second printing is being planned. Meanwhile, former Columbia Pictures president Lisa Henson and Oliver Stone's former partner Janet Yang are developing a feature movie about the last three years of Dan Eldon's life. Next September Amy Eldon, 23, will appear in a Turner Broadcasting documentary about Dan's career called "Dying to Tell the Story." Thousands of teenagers have participated in a Nairobi program founded in 1993 by Dan's father, Michael, called The Depot--Dan Eldon Place of Tomorrow, a sort of Outward Bound-on-the-savanna that teaches leadership skills.
Eldon's story, a mix of doomed innocence, gonzo adventure and Third World exoticism, seems tailored for cinematic mythmaking. Son of a British father and an Amencan mother, now divorced, Eldon
The power of Dan Eldon's art is a dazzling testament to the way in which he lived his life...Jan Sardi, screenwriter, Shine
Wild with sex and death, the collection resembles the illuminations of a young Blake. British Esquire