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Dan's Images of War and Peace

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The Journey is the Destination didn't work out for Orlando but, for those who are interested and in the neighborhood, Dan Eldon's works are still on tour. The exhibit of his provocative war photos, Dan Eldon's Images of War and Peace, kicks off the Year of International Human Rights at Webster University in the university's May Gallery. From Webster's student newspaper The Journal:

Slain photographer's work kicks off Year of International Human Rights

By: CHRISTIAN LOSCIALE

Posted: 9/4/08

A war photography exhibit was the May Gallery's yearly debut and served as the inaugural event for the Year of International Human Rights (YIHR) at Webster University. Dan Eldon, the featured photographer, took photos of the Somalia conflict until he was killed in 1993.

The YIHR celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights completion. Eldon's photos depict scenes in Somalia during its civil war that started in 1988. U.N. peacekeeping troops, headed by the United States, went to Somalia in 1993 to establish peace and distribute aid. Eldon was stoned to death by Somalis, although a rifle butt strike to the head was likely the cause of death. He was 22 years old and scheduled to fly to Nairobi the day he died.

David Carl Wilson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, gave a speech and mentioned the late Art Sandler, committee chair and founder of the human rights program.

"(The May Gallery) is a particularly appropriate place (to host Eldon's exhibit) because it reminds of us of how far we have to go," said Wilson. Wilson's office contributed financially, as did the May Gallery, to bring Eldon's only traveling exhibit to WU. A stationary gallery is on display at the Candela - Decker Gallery in New York City. Professor Bill Barrett, director of the May Gallery, Sarita Cargas, professor and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Andrea Miller, human rights coordinator, worked together to organize the event.

Cargas had a contact who knew Eldon's mother, Kathy. She told the contact she wanted to bring the exhibit to WU and asked Barrett if it could be the May Gallery's first opening. Originally, Barrett said the gallery was booked, so Cargas withdrew her request to her contact. However, the first exhibit was canceled, and Barrett asked Cargas to reinitiate the plans. Barrett, Cargas and Miller had 144 photographs and 20 journal entries from which to choose.

"We got to choose what photographs we wanted," Miller said. "We wanted to pick the most provocative images."

Nick Stevens, president of The ONE Campaign at WU and junior human rights and public relations major, co-sponsored the event with the YIHR after he was asked by Cargas and Miller. The ONE Campaign is a global organization that aims to end extreme poverty and the spread of disease.

Bill Egsieker, the online gallery curator for www.daneldon.org, sold books and DVDs related to Eldon's work at the opening. He met Kathy Eldon at a gallery in Texas four years ago. Shortly thereafter, he hosted Eldon's exhibit in downtown St. Louis. Kathy asked Egsieker to help upgrade Eldon's Web site. Eldon's work inspired him to volunteer his efforts, he said.

Egsieker said the Creative Visions Foundation, started by Eldon's mother and sister to promote social change, is working to make a feature film about Eldon entitled "Journey." This past winter, Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the title character in the Harry Potter movies, agreed to play the role of Dan Eldon. Egsieker said he heard the release is scheduled for 2009. Production is underway for the film.

Clayton Langeneckert, a sophomore media production major, attended the opening for his Introduction to Human Rights class. He said the journal entries appealed to him since they were like embellished photos.

"It'd be pretty intimidating to have soldiers walk down the street," Langeneckert said while looking at a photo of a Somali child touching a U.S. soldier's hand.

Michele Browning, a sophomore at Webster Groves high school, read about the opening in a local magazine.

"It's weird to think that someone walked down the street and took these pictures," she said.

Attendees got a pocket-sized copy of the UDHR. Miller stamped each one as attendants entered the exhibit. If anyone attends five human rights events at WU and gets the stamps to prove it, they win a free

ONE T-shirt.

A T-shirt designed by Bono, human rights activist and U2's lead singer, is the prize for 10 stamps. Fifteen stamps enter attendees in a drawing for a Product Red iPod. Product Red gives a percentage of profits to the Global Fund.

The exhibit runs from 29 August through 19 September, 2008 for those willing to travel to the greater St. Louis, Missouri (USA) area. There is also a permanent exhibit in NYC.

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As this exhibit tours, it seems only fair to start a thread for the entire tour, rather than one for each locale. The tour of Dan Eldon's works has moved from the St. Louis area to the University of Oklahoma until November 23, 2008. If you're in the area, here are the details:

If you get the chance to experience "Journey: Dan Eldon's Images of War and Peace," a photography exhibit on display in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication through Nov. 23, you should brace yourself for an emotional viewing.

Eldon, who was killed in 1993 at the age of 22 while working for Reuters in Africa during the Somalian conflict, was a photojournalist who created and collected a compilation of journal entries and collages during his expedition. The display of his work is filled with longing faces and compelling text that express the emotions he felt throughout his stay in Somalia, and the emotions of the people living in Africa at the time.

In one of Eldon's photographs, an African man with compelling eyes gazes at the viewer. The word "ROTTING" is splashed across the bottom of the photo. In another work, sketches of surreal artwork along with a Somalian photo creates an uneasy feeling with martyr-like tension. In the photos displaying the artist himself, it is easy to see his self-sacrificial attitude and his love for the Somalian people.

Almost every photo in the exhibit has been crafted in at least three mediums, which mesh together to create a well-rounded display of the artist's emotions at the time of his journey.

The exhibit is one that would appeal to almost anyone. It has a wealth of artistic value but also displays a great deal of human courage and self-sacrifice. The display tugs at the heart and is pleasing to the eye but more than anything, it expresses a story that will inspire viewers and leave a lasting image in their minds for many years to come.

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