Alone at Western Baths, Glasgow, by Soo Burnell
Alone at Western Baths, Glasgow, by Soo Burnell

Swimming pool exhibition will be a splash hit

A stunning collection of images taken in historic swimming pools are featuring in a new exhibition by a Scots photographer.

In the show, Poolside, by Soo Burnell, she shares her passion for water, architecture and keeping things simple.

She captured the images of the swimming baths at pools across the UK and Europe, in cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Paris and Manchester.

The work is on show from from Tuesday 17 December until 22 December, at Space at Seventeen, 17 St Stephens Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh.

Soo started photographing Victorian swimming pools in January 2018.

Alone at Western Baths, Glasgow, by Soo Burnell

She said:  ‘Since my exhibition at Saorsa Art Gallery in the summer, I’ve had lots of people getting in touch to ask where they can see the Poolside pictures, so I’m really excited to be having a pop-up sale in the beautiful Space at Seventeen and to be part of the St Stephen’s Street community in the run-up to Christmas.

‘People remember going to these pools years ago and everyone has a real fondness for the pool they grew up close to. I’ve done lots of research looking for pools and I haven’t found anywhere that still has so many of these old pools open as there are in Edinburgh. It’s a bit of a trip down memory lane for lots of people and there is a real sense of nostalgia around these pools.

‘I’ve just finished shooting at the Commonwealth Pool, which is completely different from the other Edinburgh pools I’ve photographed. It’s bright and chaotic, with lots of concrete and lovely angles, and I absolutely love it. This will be the first time these photographs will have been seen. It’s like introducing a new member of the Poolside family, so I’m really hoping people like them!’

Soo Burnell in her home studio

‘Every shoot is different. Manchester’s pool isn’t currently used for swimming, it’s being used as an event space until funding is available to renovate it, so there is no water in those pool pictures. Even without the water, it is still a beautiful space, with floor-to-ceiling tiling, incredible windows and mahogany banisters.

‘I introduced swimmers to the photographs to give a sense of perspective, it’s difficult to appreciate the size and scale of these spaces without a reference point. The models reflect the graphic minimalism of the pools – I didn’t want anything fussy, so the simple swimsuits and swimming caps add to that graphic element.

‘I’ve managed to get access to most of the pools when they were closed to the public, although that wasn’t possible when photographing the Molitor in Paris. When we got there at 5am, there was already a queue of French gentlemen lined up in white towelling robes all ready for their morning swim.

The Commonwealth Pool seating in Edinburgh (Photo: Soo Burnell)


‘For me, photography is all about following your passion – finding something you love is where inspiration comes from. I love water and I love architecture – I feel drawn to these historic swimming baths.’