“Once one has been to these challenging, terrible places, they’re always strangely drawn back
because there’s nothing that can compare to seeing the raw reality of the basic human need for
survival. It disgusts and inspires.” –Dan Eldon
Purpose of this Guide
The following activities and discussion questions are provided to help members of your
community to better understand and enjoy the exhibit Images of War. Celebrations of Peace: The
Photographs and Collage Art of Dan Eldon. We have put the guide on the Internet in hopes of making it available to the widest audience possible; however, a paper version will also travel with
the exhibit and may be copied.
The guide has been created by a team of college and high school educators and is intended for a
broad audience, including school-aged students (middle school through college level), youth
groups (e.g., church groups, older scout groups), and adults (e.g., members of book clubs, art
groups, and retirement educational groups). Our hope is that the activities and discussion
questions, which are purposely broad, can be easily adapted for various audiences and settings.
How to Use This Guide
The Guide is broken into five parts:
1. About Dan Eldon – a brief overview of his life
2. The Exhibit – Activities and Discussion
3. The Book – Dan Eldon: The Art of Life
4. The Film – Dying to Tell the Story
The questions and activities in this guide are meant to elucidate your experience of each of these
three things. There are obvious overlaps between them, though, so if your group will only be
studying one of three, we encourage you to read the entire guide for additional ideas.
Dan Eldon was born in London in
1970 to an American mother and a
British father. Along with his younger
sister, Amy, Dan and his family
moved to Kenya in east Africa in
1977. Kenya remained Dan‘s home
for the rest of his life, and though he
traveled often – visiting more than 40
countries in 22 years – he always
considered Africa home.
Dan‘s father led the east Africa division of a European computer company
and his mother Kathy, an Iowa native, was a freelance journalist. Kenya was
a popular destination in the late 1970s and 1980s; it was more politically
stable and economically secure than most African nations, and the bountiful
wildlife and perfect climate made it all the more appealing. Dan and Amy
grew up with a constant stream of interesting visitors at their dinner table.
Frog researchers, opera singers, filmmakers, reporters, and politicians were
just some of the people who populated the Eldon household.
By the time Dan was in high school, he had begun to make his collage
journals, something he started as an assignment for an anthropology class.
Sometimes, he shared these with guests to the house. The journals were the
perfect catch-all for his interests in travel, photography, and art. For the rest
of his life, he would religiously keep these visual diaries-cum-art
As a high school senior, Dan told the guidance counselor that he was
planning to do an internship at a magazine for a few months and then travel
through southern Africa. ―Oh, you‘re taking a year off,‖ the counselor asked.
―No,‖ Dan replied, ―I‘m taking a year on.‖ He lived by this concept for the
next five years—education through travel and firsthand experience.
Although he enrolled in several colleges for a semester or two, his primary
activities were travel, photography, and entrepreneurial schemes. Many of
the latter were philanthropic in nature.
From a young age, Dan had a knack for raising money. As a teenager, he
sold the jewelry of a Maasai woman, helping her to support her family, and
he held large dance parties to help a classmate fund an operation. In 1990,
two years after graduating from high school, he planned his biggest
adventure and fund raising effort to date. Along with 13 other young people,
all of whom were under the age of 21, he raised nearly $20,000 which the
group delivered to a refugee camp in Malawi.
Two years later, Dan had an opportunity to fly to Somalia, Kenya‘s northern
neighbor, to witness the civil war and famine. The three-day visit had a
major impact on Dan. He saw that his work as a photographer could have a
huge impact; few journalists were covering the story at the time and
humanitarian relief was desperately needed. He also realized that he would
be good at this line of work; his years of travel along with photographic
skills would come together. Soon, he was a stringer for the Reuters news
agency – someone whose photos are promised to one agency but who is not
a permanent employee of that agency.
He spent the next year in Somalia covering the famine and the arrival of
both UN and US forces to the country. He underwent depression, shocked
by the horrors of war and the death of so many of his fellow Africans. But he
also shined as a young correspondent, loving the people he met and the pace
of the work. By spring of 1993, his photographs routinely appeared in major
newspapers and magazines. When Dan was killed on July 12, 1993, at just
22 years of age, he‘d achieved more success in a competitive field that many
do in an entire career.
For more information about Dan Eldon, there are several resources. The
Journey Is the Destination is a compilation of excerpts form his collage journals with a brief introduction by Kathy Eldon. Dan Eldon: The Art of
Life by Jennifer New is Dan’s biography, complete with many more images.
Both books are published by Chronicle Books. Dying to Tell the Story is a
2-hour documentary created by Dan’s sister, Amy Eldon, about the work of
journalists in war zones. And www.daneldon.org is a web site that uses Dan
as an inspiration to explore the issues he embodied: adventure, art, and
activism. The above mentioned books and video, along with posters of Dan’s
work and other resources are available via the web site.