Fishing nets at Palamos, Costa Brava – 1955
David Moore and Jenny Flintoff were married in London in October 1955 and honeymooned in France and Spain. Their destination in Spain was S’Agaro on the Costa Brava as guests of Senor don Jose Ensesa. Senor Ensesa, a fiercely nationalistic Catalonian, had commissioned David to produce a photographic essay on the unique enterprise he had created at S’Agaro. Jenny as a journalist provided a written account of the experience. The results were published in a stylish magazine owned by Ensesa given to promoting Catalonian culture.
Some of the pictures shown here illustrate how austerely beautiful was the built environment created by Ensesa. Villas, gardens, a winding promenade, an elegant stone parapet, a foaming rocky shoreline and one or two secluded and pretty beaches amounted to an exclusive enclave, an oasis of serenity standing in vivid contrast to the picturesque fishing villages which bordered it at either end.
S’Agaro occupied a stretch of coastline owned and developed under strict guidelines by Senor Ensesa, a Gerona-born millionaire. His father having donated the first block, Ensesa’s villa was complete in 1923 but incongruous in its desolate setting. He then started buying up the surrounding land which he sold on to friends and others on the condition they agreed to build to his prescription, that is, villas incorporating the sweeping, arched lines of old-style Catalonia. It was the making of S’Agaro (near the village of San Feliu), of its flow and harmony; and it was the first time, in Spain at least, that a seaside residential group had conformed to one man’s architectural vision.
Later Ensesa would turn his mind to attracting tourists. People came from all over the world, the cream of ‘tourisme’. They included Lord Astor, Selwyn Lloyd, Cole Porter and Orson Welles, whose grandiose Confidental Report was partly filmed there and featured the graceful neo-Grecian logia which looped its way across the bottom of Ensesa’s garden.
A highlight of the Moores’ stay was being taken by Ensesa to meet Salvador Dali at Port Lligat. They guessed he was waxing his moustache when he took so long to appear from inside his fisherman’s cottage. Asked about the same background in several of his pictures, he exclaimed: ‘Ah, the bay has the silver grey of the olive leaf, which I love; and the hills? They remind me of the rotten carcass of an ass’.
David and Jenny would return to S’Agaro the following year for a further series of pictures of the immediate region. The earlier photographs of Minorca in the Balearic Islands were taken to closely illustrate an article William Sansom wrote on the lure of Spain for The Geographical Magazine in 1954. Some of this archive would be used by Sydney Carter for a piece on ‘the charm of Minorca’ in a 1956 issue of the Tatler which he called ‘Admiral Lord Nelson Slept Here’. It was lucky perhaps that David had had the foresight to photograph Nelson’s house at San Antonio, an imposing residence which looks out over the waters of Mahon Harbour.