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Spanish eye: the heyday of the package holiday

Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Artist Jake Clark’s collection of his father Trevor’s photographs may well have bemused his dad, who foresaw mass tourism and moved to Spain to capture it on camera

Playas Arenal, Mallorca Trevor Clark 1970s  Hasselblad large-format camera.  Kodak 120 film
Playas Arenal, Mallorca Trevor Clark 1970s Hasselblad large-format camera. Kodak 120 film

When just a kid in the late 1960s, artist Jake Clark moved with his parents to a fishing village in Mallorca, where his dad had clocked the nascent mass tourism industry even under Franco; and where, for a time, he was the only British commercial photographer. 

With the multistorey resorts of Palma Nova and Magaluf rising like concrete castles out of the sand, Clark was soon working for the Thompsons or Skytours shooting exteriors, restaurants and poolsides to sell hotels to next season’s hordes; a task he carried out methodically but artfully. 

In a bar shot, he’d pose people holding brightly coloured cocktails, and if an urban pool area looked a bit bleak, he’d dangle a palm frond in the foreground ‘to make it look more tropical’.

In retirement, photographer Trevor never quite got his son Jake’s fascination with the thousands of photos he’d amassed but was happy that they served as an inspiration for his art. Were he still alive, publishing a book of them as a form of ‘social document’ may well have bemused him. 

Jake still wonders why he is so fascinated by them. Part of it is the sun-soaked colours that pick up on the vivid euphoria of being on holiday. Perhaps it’s also the hotels’ municipal nature: ‘They’re generic, functional, even utopian, with balconies that wouldn’t look out of place on an east end council block; their pools can feel like a lido.’

As for this specific image, it’s the forms as well as the colours. ‘I like his flares set against the hotel’s modernist grid – I paint flares a lot. Fernand Léger’s modernism was all about cones, cubes and spheres; maybe for me the flares are just a kind of truncated cone.’ 

The Package Holiday 1968-1985 by Jake Clark. March 2024. Hoxton Mini Press