Dan Eldon: The Journey is the Destination

Dan Eldon
The Journey is the Destination
Chronicle Books

Dan Eldon probably had some stories to tell. The white, British-born photojournalist was raised in Kenya and spent much of his life exploring Africa with friends, while rising through the ranks of wartime photographers. It was a short life: In 1993 Eldon and three other journalists were killed by a Somali mob enraged over a U.N. helicopter attack. He was 22 years old.

That his death was--like all deaths--a tragedy is incontrovertible. But what exactly is the point of releasing his journal collages to the world? To be sure, The Journey is the Destination is an impressive production--a textbook-thick collection with full-color photos, die-cut fold-out pages, and bound-in inserts--and accomplished photographs and inventive juxtapositions lurk among the hundreds of pages. But Eldon is exceptionally faithful to his photographic source material, refusing to substantively cut images of close friends and African landscapes into entirely new pictures. After all, his journals--which he showed only to family and close friends--were just ambitious photo albums, not objets d'art.

And analyzing Eldon's work as if it were intended to enter the public eye would lead to some unflattering conclusions, anyway. Despite his well-traveled life, he seems like a pretty average young adult, peppering his pages with unoriginal if well-intentioned liberal optimism, and a whole lot of pictures of pretty girls. (And never mind the question of whether we really need to experience Africa through a white man's eyes again.)

I can assume, for Eldon's sake, that these vaguely embarrassing 15 minutes don't represent him. But they do reflect poorly on his mother/editor Kathy, who bought into an increasingly confessional culture in which people bare their worst indiscretions to a television audience, and more and more artistic statements resemble autobiographies. I can only hope that the process of releasing Journey--while giving her son's photo album a pretension he never courted in life--helped her get through the sense of loss she undoubtedly felt. Because quite frankly, I don't think Journey's going to do much good for anybody else.

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