It all began in Paris, in 1964. Six months
earlier I had begun working on a kids' photo-book and I had
just finished it. My next job was to be in Spain - another
kids' photo-book - so before I left, some friends I had made
while working on the book, had organized a going-away gathering
for me. We met in the very old, very cold, very French apartment
of a friend-of-a-friend. My hostess turned out to be one of
the most important people in my life. That was because she
invited me to an upcoming Christmas party she was going to
give...in a place called Ibiza. I had never heard of a place
called Ibiza. Not even the Hippies had got the word about
it in 1964. I had heard of Palma, of course. Everybody had
heard of Palma. But only in-people had ever heard of Ibiza
in those days. I had the feeling it was a very well kept French
secret. And, when I finally got there, I knew I was right.
It was a jewel of a secret.
It started badly enough. I found myself
befuddled - and more and more anxious about missing the ship.
I was moving very slowly in a dense dockside maze of the Barcelona
port area. I was searching for the ship to Ibiza. It was a
pitch black night. Rain was crashing down. Thunder and lightning
were everywhere. The street lights were hopeless; few and
far between, blinding but failing to illuminate. Like other
prowling cars, I was lost, swallowed up by the storm. In my
headlights I saw only gleaming, rain-drenched asphalt and
endless dead ends. I was driving a small black car with the
motor in the rear, a Renault 8. In my front boot and in the
back seat were all my worldly possessions. Most important
of these was my little grey Schnauser, Flipper. He kept nuzzling
me, and whining, looking for reassurance. I told him again
and again that everything was OK, but he didn't believe me.
Just when things looked worse than impossible, just when I
was sure I was going to miss the sailing, help arrived. A
bulky figure in dripping black storm-gear suddenly appeared
at my window like an apparition. He guided me to, and then
up, a broad, clanging gangplank. That was how Flipper and
I found ourselves in the cavernous hold of a huge Trasmediterranea
Ferry. We were on our way to that island called Ibiza.
Of the overnight passage, the less said
the better. But that awful time had a hidden virtue, notwithstanding
its burden of misery. That ugliest and blackest of nights
gave way to the breathless, ethereal, morning beauty of a
lovely island, a contrast so volcanic that it is etched forever
in my memory. Ibiza: green hills, white villas nestled randomly
in their folds, the sea lapping on powder-white sandy beaches,
Ibiza glowing in blue-green water, with so limpid, smiling
sunlight falling on it, the light seemed alive. Ibiza levitated
out of the mist as any heavenly apparition might slowly announce
itself. It was without pretence, without flamboyance, without
sound. It was pure. Pure, pure, pure. It was an unspoiled,
genuine, visionary appearance. I shall never forget that moment.
Ah, in the perfumed air the flowers bloom,
And blooming thus, there is everywhere
A song so sweet, so loving and so fair,
It sings to all of us, outlawing any gloom!
Oh, the harbour, oh the docking! There among
the white hillside houses crowding down to the Port itself,
there in that beautiful natural harbour with lovely rolling
green hills all 'round - except to the east, where the sea
remained in charge - there with the Old Town rising majestically
to its Cathedral crown, there with a great man-made mole jutting
two hundred meters into the entrance, there our great ship
just barely managed to edge safely alongside Ibiza's only
wharf. It took almost a full hour to skilfully and patiently
manoeuvre the vessel into its appointed place. The dockside
was crowded with cheering people waving greetings, shouting
greetings, jumping greetings, calling out endearing names,
throwing kisses. The passengers were crowded to the ship's
rails doing the same. There was a furious hubbub of excitement,
an atmosphere of delight, good natured impatience, and of
happiness. But most of all there was a communal feeling of
public welcome to private arrivals. There was, in short, a
grand homecoming shout to all. Including Flipper who couldn't
contain himself, barking his head off, just like everybody
else. But somehow, in the general confusion, Flipper disappeared.
I didn't notice, because I was so busy with something else.
Since there was no roll-on, roll-off facility
in the port, my small car, with all its precious personal
and photo cargo still inside, was hoisted slowly and precariously
from the hold. Suspended in a sturdy cargo net, it was swung
high offside, and then gently, safely, lowered to the dock.
While this breath holding scenario was in progress the seamen
on the winches controlling the operation, smilingly cooperated
with my frantic effort to get photos from underneath the car.
Standing on the dock and shooting straight up from beneath
it, I photographed my car as it hung helplessly in its spider's
web of heavy nautical rope. I shot ten, perhaps twenty frames
from this spectacular perspective while the men held the car
as still as they could. A crowd had gathered around me, but
not near me. Everyone stood clear. But everyone was fascinated
by the photographic goings on. Only I was directly underneath
the slowly rotating car. Suddenly Flipper's head and shoulders
appeared in the driver's window. Slowly he looked down - and
barked. Swiftly, I got the shot! There was Flipper and car,
high above, shot from under the car. The crowd went mad. They
shouted, they applauded, and the whole town knew that Flipper
had arrived. That I had, too, they learned later.
And so it was that I came to Ibiza.