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 deathBeating
OccupationJournalist, artist, activist

Daniel Robert Eldon (18 September 1970 – 12 July 1993) was a British-Kenyan photojournalist, artist and activist, killed in Somalia while working as a Reuters photojournalist. His journals were published posthumously in four volumes by Chronicle Books, including The Journey Is the Destination, The Art of Life, and Safari as a Way of Life.

Early life[edit]

Eldon was born in London on 18 September 1970, the son of Kathy and Mike Eldon. His father was an Israel-born British citizen of Jewish descent, and his mother was an American Protestant of German and Irish descent.[1][2] He had one younger sister. When Eldon was seven years old, his family moved to Nairobi, Kenya. His parents later divorced.

In Kenya, Eldon initially attended a British school, before transferring to the International School of Kenya. The family was living in Kenya in 1982, during an attempted coup in the country. 12-year-old Eldon arrived back in Kenya from a summer holiday several days after the coup and witnessed some of the aftermath. In his teens, Eldon began taking pictures which were featured in local newspapers and magazines.

At 14, with his sister and friends, Eldon raised $5,000 in a fundraising campaign for a young Kenyan girl, Atieno, to have heart surgery. At 15, Eldon sold handmade beaded jewelry made by a Maasai family to students and friends to support them. Around this time Eldon began creating personal journals filled with collages, photographs, and drawings, often using satire and cartoons as commentary.

In 1988, Eldon graduated from the International School of Kenya, winning the International Relations and Community Service awards. He was voted most outstanding student, and addressed his class on the importance of crossing cultural barriers and caring for others.[3]

Travel and studies[edit]

Eldon travelled extensively, visiting 46 countries, and studied seven languages.

In the autumn of 1988, Eldon left Kenya for a job at Mademoiselle magazine in New York before university.

In January, Eldon enrolled in Pasadena City College in California. That summer, he and a friend researched a journey from Nairobi to Malawi, driving a Land Rover across five countries.[4] They often used local jails as accommodation while on the trip.

Following this trip, and having transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles, Eldon set up a charity called Student Transport Aid, which raised $25,000 for a trip from a Nairobi to a refugee camp in Malawi 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, Roko Belic, Elinor Tatum, Jeffrey Gettleman, and Eldon's sister Amy.

Eldon returned to UCLA in the autumn of 1990 and began to plan another venture, which required moving to London in January. While attending Richmond College, he 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 the summer in Marrakesh, then came home 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, planning his next trip across the Sahara. Early in 1992, he moved to Mount Vernon, Iowa, to attend classes at Cornell College.

In April 1992, Eldon flew to Kenya, where he was a third assistant director on the film Lost in Africa.[5]

Work in Somalia and death[edit]

In the summer of 1992, during the famine in Somalia, Eldon flew to the Kenyan refugee camps. He began taking photographs for Reuters, and was among the international photographers and journalists present at the US Marine landing in Mogadishu. Eldon stayed in Mogadishu through to the next spring, during which time his pictures were featured in newspapers and magazines around the world. On 12 June 1993, his photo was featured as a double-page spread in Newsweek magazine, as well as the covers of newspapers everywhere.[specify]

On 12 July 1993, Eldon, 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. Some witnesses and former US officials later stated that the raid accidentally hit a meeting of clan elders who were hoping to pressure Aidid into peace, a claim denied by the US Army.[7] As they began to take photographs, Eldon, Krauss, Macharia and Maina were attacked by a mob, and stoned and beaten to death. One soldier who participated in the attack claimed the Army viewed Eldon and the other journalists as collateral damage, stating “We were considering people that I previously considered not expendable, expendable.”

Film adaptation[edit]

It was announced in The New York Times on 28 December 2007 that Eldon would be the subject of a biographical film, The Journey Is the Destination, the title of which was taken from a page of his journals that was released under the same name by Chronicle Books. The film was directed by Bronwen Hughes and produced by Martin Katz, Kathy Eldon, Richard Arlook and Kweku Mandela, and was shot in South Africa from July to September 2014. The film, starring Ben Schnetzer, Kelly Macdonald, and Maria Bello,[8] premiered in 2016 at the Toronto Film Festival and was released on Netflix in October 2017.


  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. ^ Megas, Natalia. "Did the U.S. Cover Up a Civilian Massacre Before Black Hawk Down?". The Daily Beast.
  8. ^ ""The Journey is the Destination (2016)", Internet Movie Database".


External links[edit]