Dan Eldon was only 22 years old when he was stoned to death in Somalia while covering the bloody civil war there in 1993 for Reuters. Visitors to the Santa Monica College (SMC) Pete & Susan Barrett Art Gallery might find it hard to believe that a man barely old enough to visit an American bar could have produced so much insightful work during his truncated lifetime. Eldon’s photographs and selected journal excerpts are showcased in an exhibit dubbed JOURNEY: Images of War/Celebrations of Peace, which will be at SMC through March 21. The February 27 opening reception drew more than 500 guests, and Eldon’s story is being made into a motion picture starring the silver screen’s version of Harry Potter, actor Daniel Radcliffe. In a little more than two decades, Eldon lived a life worth talking about. Born in London in 1970, Eldon traveled the world before his untimely death, visiting a total of 46 countries. At the age of seven, he moved to Nairobi, Kenya with his parents, Kathy and Mike Eldon. Dan attended the International School of Kenya, where he mingled with students from more than 40 nationalities. At age 14, he started a fund-raising campaign to save the life of Atieno, a young Kenyan girl. The following year, he helped support a Maasai family by buying their hand-made jewelry and selling it. Upon graduation, Eldon moved to New York, did a short stint at Mademoiselle magazine, and then headed for Southern California, where he studied at Pasadena Community College and UCLA. He subsequently bounced around a bit, heading back to Africa several times. During the summer of 1992, he flew from Kenya to the southern Somali town of Baidoa, where he shot photos that landed him at Reuters. In the summer of 1993, Eldon and three of his colleagues were in Mogadishu to cover a bombing. All four were beaten, clubbed, and stoned to death by a mob. Since his death, Eldon’s mother, Kathy Eldon, and his sister, Amy Eldon-Turteltaub, have continued to honor Dan’s memory through the Creative Visions Foundation (CVF), which supports creative activists who use media to inspire positive change in the world. The exhibit at SMC is sponsored by CVF.“It is a young person’s view of the world from someone with a very old soul,” said Kathy Eldon. “Dan didn’t go to Harvard and he didn’t know it all…I just think people see his desire to love more, give more, do more…his work and his story light a fire in people.”The photos and snippets of personal writing reflect Dan’s sense of responsibility to the world community and his boyishness – though his life ended tragically, the exhibit is evidence that it was full of adventure and joy. “Right now, when people are losing jobs and dreams and hopes it is important to figure out what our individual purpose is,” Eldon said. “We are all interconnected and we have to figure out how to contribute to the whole. Dan always said find solutions, not problems.”Kathy, who lives on the border of Santa Monica and Malibu, is thrilled that the traveling exhibit has made a stop at Santa Monica College. “The last time I saw Dan, he took me to the Santa Monica Pier and made me laugh and that makes it a special place for me,” Eldon said. “And he would love it that the exhibit is at a community college, because so much of his education was at smaller colleges…he believed in learning by doing, not by going to an expensive school.”For gallery hours, visit www.smcbarrettgallery.com. For more information about Dan Eldon, visit www.creativevisionsorg.
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