Dan Eldon

Dan Eldon - NeoPopRealism JournalDan Eldon was born in London on September 18th, 1970.

From a very early age he displayed signs of an excellent sense of humour.
When he was 7 years old, he & his three-year-old sister moved to Nairobi, Kenya with their parents.
In Kenya, Dan attended a British school. There he developed a “schoolphobia” after being attacked too many times by a vicious math teacher, armed with a sneaker. He convinced his parents to transfer him to the International School of Kenya. The International School of Kenia was attended by students representing 46 nationalities. There Dan blossomed, enjoying such activities as staying in a Maasai village, a trip to the exotic Arab island of Lamu... Dan had many Kanyan friends, including Lengai Croze, who took him for many adventures in the gorge behind his home. Another friend was Lara Leakey, grand-daughter of anthropologist Louis Leakey. Louis Leakey discovered many of the most ancient human ancestral bones in the world. Both Lengai and Lara lived next to the Nairobi Game Park. They were used to nightly visits from rhino, leopard, giraffe, lion.

In 1982, Dan narrowly missed being caught up in the coup in Kenya. He was around to experience the aftermath of that political upheaval. He joined his journalist mother on her assignments. Soon he was taking pictures, which were used in the local newspapers.
Dan started helping others from a young age. When Dan was 14, he started a fund-raising campaign for open-heart surgery to save the life of Atieno, a young Kenyan girl. When Dan was 15, he helped support a Maasai family buy buying their hand-made jewelry, later selling it to fellow students and friends. He started to create journals: fat, bulging books filled with collages, photographs, whimsical drawings. He used satire & cartoons to comment on what he saw around him. Dan kept the journals as very personal statements, which he shared with only a few people. During his high school years, Dan held many charity fund-raising dances in the “Mkebe,” a large tin shed in the backyard of the Eldon home. Always looking for a way to raise funds, Dan produced colorful T-shirts of his own design, and launched a collection of brightly printed boxer shorts. Dan graduated from the International School of Kenya in 1988, winning the International Relations and Community Service awards. Also he was being voted most outstanding student by his classmates. Throughout his life, Dan was traveling extensively. He had visited 46 countries by the time of his death. He studied seven languages. Dan returned nearly every summer to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, home of his grandparents. From the age of 8 to 18, Dan attended Camp Wapsi in Central City, Iowa. There he learned about Native Americans.

In the autumn of 1988, Dan Started his “year off” before going to college. It was, as he described, really a “year on” and for him. He felt more challenging than going straight into college. Dan left his home in Kenya and traveled to New York City. There he had been offered a job at Mademoiselle Magazine. He loved his position. He found being in New York to be a lonely and difficult experience. In January, he moved to a warmer climate. He enrolled in the Pasadena Community College in California. Immediately, he began to plot a way to get back to Africa. He devised a scheme whereby he would lead a group of young people from Nairobi to Malawi. That summer, he and a friend researched the journey, and drove Dan’s Land Rover, Deziree, across 5 African countries, fending off thieves & border guards. They found staying in local jails the safest solution to security problems. They often spent the night locked up in cells to the amusement of prison wardens. Armed with this information, Dan, who had transferred to University of California in Los Angeles, set up a charity, which he named Student Transport Aid. He attracted the interest of local television stations, newspapers. Together with 15 friends, raised $25,000 for their venture. The friends, representing 6 countries, met in Nairobi and traveled thousands of miles together in 3 vehicles to their destination, a refugee camp in Malawi. There, they donated one of their vehicles to the Save the Children Fund, as well as money for 3 wells, & blankets for a children’s hospital. Dan returned to UCLA in the autumn of 1990. He began to plan another adventure, which necessitated a move to London after Christmas. He attended Richmond College & organized the purchase of yet another Land Rover, which he equipped for a trip to Morocco that summer. His scheme was to buy bracelets and belts to sell in America for Student Transport Aid. Attacked by Moroccan thieves & delayed by a very sick Land Rover, he spent a fitful summer in Marrakesh, before arriving home just in time to ship $5,000 worth of bounty to America. Selling the jewelry & belts was not easy. Wearing a WWII leather pilot’s helmet, Dan patrolled the beaches of LA, as well as glitzy Rodeo Drive. He managed to move much of his merchandise. Dan used bluster and charm which won friends & followers of all races & social classes. In 1991, Dan returned to UCLA for one semester, all the time planning his next trip,which was to be across the Sahara. Early in 1992, he moved to Mt. Vernon, Iowa, to attend classes at Cornell College. He enjoyed the friendliness & peace of that campus. In April, Dan flew to Kenya. There he worked as a 3rd assistant director on a feature film, Lost in Africa. He was up at 5:00 a.m., and was the last in bed. His greatest moment was when he was required to locate 7 camels, & slept the night with the smelly, noisy beasts tethered next to him for fear of losing them & their keepers.

During the summer of 1992, the famine in Somalia was raging. Dan flew from Kenya to the southern Somali town of Baidoa. There he shot some of the 1st pictures to touch the conscience of millions. The international news agency, Reuters, spotted his work. By Christmas, Dan was working for the company, shooting the increasingly desperate situation. He followed the story closely & was present at the U.S. Marine landing, where a barrage of international photographers & journalists were waiting for the American soldiers as they crept, faces blackened, off their landing craft in Mogadishu.
Throughout the spring of 1993, Dan stayed in Mogadishu, both horrified and fascinated by the violence & tragedy he recorded. The situation worsened. The death of Pakistani peace keepers turned the conflict into an international incident. During this time, Dan’s pictures were featured in newspapers & magazines around the world.

On June 12, 1993 his photo made a double-page spread in Newsweek magazine and at the covers on papers everywhere. Dan kept his spirits up by starting a variety of businesses in Mogadishu. His T-shirts, caps, postcards were in hot demand, especially the cult tee T-shirt which said “Viva Somalia… thank you for not looting.” The first 2 hundred of those shirts were looted.

In April of 1993, Dan published his first book, Somalia, a collection of photographs & collages which sold rapidly to aid workers & soldiers.
Dan always felt protected in Mogadishu. He spoke the African languages of Swahili & enough Somali to swear at the thieves who often tried to steal his equipment.
He moved easily from the notorious Bahara Market, home of Mogadishu’s most dangerous criminals, to dine with the heads of aid missions, generals, & UN advisors. He soon earned the title of a true professional, along with the respect of his colleagues, friends, locals, who called him the “Mayor of Mogadishu."
The violence & horror of the situation was extremely hard on Dan. He had “had enough” by late June of 1993, he agreed to stay on to cover the unfolding events.

On July, 12, 1993, Dan & three of his colleagues raced across Mogadishu to cover the bombing of what was thought to be General Aideed’s headquarters.
Four young men were beaten, clubbed, stoned to death by an angry mob furious about the death of over 50 of their friends, fathers, brothers at the hands of U.S. & U.N. soldiers. The journalists who died that day were Hos Maina, Anthony Macharia, Hansi Krauss, Dan Eldon.

References:
www.cnn.com/WORLD/9712/07/eldon/index.html
www.amazon.com/Journey-Destination-Journals-Dan-Eldon/dp/0811815862
www.photoarts.com/journal/SABA/eldon/eldonintro.html
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/12/1223_031223_tveldon.html

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