Heroes - Dan Eldon

Dan Eldon was born to an American mother and a British father in 1970, and at an early age he and his family moved to Kenya. Despite his extensive travels, he always considered Kenya home. As a child, Dan received his first camera and developed an interest in photography that he would pursue for the rest of his life becoming one of the youngest photographers for the international news agency, Reuters in 1992.

Moved by stories of famine in Somalia, he travelled to the country to see for himself. He stayed in Somalia as the civil war raged on documenting the strife and the UN’s attempts to manage the situation. His photos find their way into Time and Newsweek. Dan’s life was unfortunately cut short at the age of 22 by a mob that turned on him as he was trying to cover a bombing in Mogadishu.

Dan is probably best known for his 17 volumes of visual journals that he began keeping around the age of 15. He filled his journals with newspaper clippings, photos, labels, writing, and much, much more. He poured his life into the bulging books as he cut, glued, painted, and drew. He included pictures of his family and friends and evidence of the places he travelled and visited. Dan’s mom, Kathy shared a wide selection on Dan’s journal pages in 1997 in the book The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon published by Chronicle Books. It quickly became a great source of inspiration for many, many people who were moved by Dan’s story and his rich journal pages.

These layered pages hint at a life filled with passion and adventure, and Dan documented the people he met, the places he went, and events that took place in his life. As a photographer, his journals are filled with many of his own photos, contact sheets, and negatives which he often cut apart reimagining the pictures and the stories of his life.

Dan’s journals and his life have inspired me greatly as I have tried to record my life and to think about the kind of legacy that I will leave behind. In many ways, Dan’s short, yet inspiring life makes me wonder about what I have done in my life and the impact that I have had on the world. Dan seemed to have lived life to the fullest, and his journals reflect that packed life in rich, luminous detail. I am constantly amazed that Dan filled 17 volumes of journals in about 7 years. He put so much time and energy not only into his journals, but into the art of living.

It is because of Dan Eldon that I continue to work in my visual journals and that I continue sharing with anyone willing to pay attention. In continuing Dan’s legacy, I hope that in some small way, I am changing and challenging the world.

For more information about Dan, his life, his activism, his art, and his journals, visit www.daneldon.org.