Gypsy Westwood is a wedding and family photographer. She was born in Ibiza to English parents and grew up on the island. She still lives there today with her husband and son.
I was born in Ibiza to English parents. My father is a photographer and my mother a dress designer. They came for the six months of a summer when my mother was pregnant and stayed for 12 years. My mother took us back to London for our secondary education in 1988.
When I finished my Fine Arts Degree at the University of Middlesex, I left London and went travelling for two years with my now-husband. On our return, our choice was London or Ibiza and Ibiza seemed the best place to start again. It was my home.
We married in 2005 and our son Lucas was born in 2007, after a long time trying so he was our little miracle. He is now 11 and off to Instituto (secondary school) in September.
I had a very positive birth experience here. The horrid stories I used to hear about the public hospital here throughout my whole pregnancy put the fear in me. My labour was actually over three days in the end and I think this was because I was so scared to go to the hospital. I must have just blocked myself from moving forward until I had to. Though in the end I spent the last 3 hours in hospital and it was fine, amazing in fact. I had a great male midwife who let me do my thing. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
It is very different now to 11 years ago. It has changed and for the positive. The public hospital now has a birthing room and even allow a doula in with you if you like. I think the midwives are all much younger and more open minded to the modern way of birthing. There are also various options for home births and many great doulas. It has just opened up massively and embraced a much more modern way of birthing, listening to the mothers!
We live near the small village of San Lorenzo in the centre of the island. Our house is kind of country living but also surrounded by neighbours, which I prefer. Our closest town is Santa Eulalia, which is in the north of the island. It is the second biggest town after Ibiza town and has everything. It is busy in the summer with tourists but does not all ‘close down’ like many Spanish resorts, it is still pretty busy all winter with local residents. They have been doing up the centre making it pedestrianised, which at first seemed to be done with not much soul, but one of the small squares has a new playground and a great café and is full. There are also now even a couple of nice bars for evenings out and each year more options for better food and shopping. In the summer I don’t even step near Ibiza town because of traffic parking etc etc. Santa Eulalia is enough.
There have been foreigners coming to Ibiza for years and years which means there has always been a good open acceptance to us living here as part of the Ibicencan community. And it seems in the last two years the influx has grown again. I suppose with the growth and ease of the internet and ability to work away and live here, more and more families have come, with the idea of trying or staying or just having a stopgap. It is very transient.
As a community between the locals and ‘extranjeros’ there does seem to be a bit of a separation. The Ibicencos stick with their traditions and places to go and then it does seem even the English with the English, Dutch with the Dutch, French with the French etc. But of course you can mix and we do, it just means getting involved. My son is in a local school, speaking and learning in Catalan, Castellano and English. He is making friends with Ibicencos, Spanish, Germans, Israelis, French, Brazilians…so it is definitely very mixed, which is fantastic. How it was when I was a child.
Although I am from the International Community, I have always felt this is my home. When I lived in the UK for those 12 years I always knew if I had children I would want to bring them up here or somewhere similar.
There is a freedom that is just positive for the kids. The weather makes a massive difference because we have a great outdoor life. Of course, being in an English-speaking home it is an amazing advantage that my son can speak read and write in three languages, one that I don’t even have a great hold on myself – Catalan, though after so many years at his school I understand lots. We all as foreigners find Catalan hard, for homework help, for fewer hours of doing Spanish and English, but in the end, it is learning another language which is a skill….a new challenge will be secondary school! I think there are only disadvantages if you do not embrace life here, try to learn the language and find out what is going on in your local community.
Ibiza is amazing and a beautiful place to live, though, it is an island so is expensive. In the winter it is harder to get off of the island because there is a lack of direct flights, so sometimes you can feel stuck. Also, work comes in abundance in the summer and very little in the winter, so it can be difficult to survive all year. Many people do leave and live elsewhere for six months or go on long travel trips, during the winter months or just travel back and forth a lot.
The island has changed massively over the last 10 years but more so in the last 5 or even the last 2 years. Like I said there has been a massive influx of new foreigners, I think it is because of the Internet and Instagram, Ibiza has become quite Instagramable. The international school is expanding, there are limited places in the local schools and there are many more ‘alternative’ school options now. There are many more baby shops, baby groups and after-school activities, like dance, drama and sports. When Lucas was a baby I had to shop for natural toys, nappies, baby products and things like that online. There are now several shops full of all these things.
Though there are many more places for kids activities more could be had. Especially in the winter months when there is less beach time.
I have been a photographer on the island since we returned in 2001. At first I photographed many different things, like venues, shops, food, events, portraits and some weddings. Slowly over the years, Ibiza became a massive destination for ‘destination weddings’, so each year I have photographed more and more weddings, alongside the events that surround them and family portraits.
I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time with a good skill. I photograph in a very natural soft style. At a wedding this means capturing the moments as they unfold throughout the day, trying to be quiet and in the background. Being involved in a wedding day is a lucky job. Of course, you have stressed moments but overall it is a family’s happy day and so a privilege that they trust you to be there intimately capturing their memories. This is the same with portraits of families or friends on holiday. I think one of the things I love the most about doing it here in Ibiza is meeting the multitude of different people coming on and off the island. It is an insight into so many different lives, some of who then become friends.