I’ve been an admirer of Soo Burnell’s photographic prints since she launched her first collection three years ago, and of her typography prints before that, but also I’ve known Soo for years as we’ve worked together on interior features for magazines, before Copperline was born and before Soo launched SOOuK in 2013. Soo’s latest collection of photographic prints blew me away when I first saw them, and while you might expect me to say that about a friend’s work, really, they did.
I love the concept of poolside and Soo’s approach to the architecture of Edinburgh’s historic swimming pools, from the striking geometry to the dreamy colour palette, to the beautifully simplistic and minimal placement of figures within the spaces. Even after living in the city for years, I’ve never seen inside these public swimming pools, and am amazed by the detail of these ‘hidden’ spaces.
Soo has been previewing poolside on her Instagram – if your aesthetic leans towards simple, clean-lined design with a Scandi-infused feel, this is for you – and the first photo above of Glenogle Swimming Baths caught the eye of Accidentally Wes Anderson (described as ‘the coolest account on Instagram’) and was featured on their Instagram here.
Now, Soo is holding an exhibition of poolside in Edinburgh – at Saorsa Art Gallery in Stockbridge, which runs until Sunday July 15th. I asked Soo to share a little bit about the inspiration behind these pieces and their incredible locations.
What inspired you to create this new collection?
“I wanted to photograph Edinburgh’s swimming baths to show the beauty of the architecture and minimise all of the modern elements. I love the geometry of the tiles, the lines on the bottom of the pool and the typography including the ‘Deep End’ signs. I was really inspired by the idea of having a slight quirky Wes Anderson feel to them especially with the pastel colour palette, and included the swimmers to add a human element to the scenes.”
How did you choose the locations?
“I really wanted to include all of Edinburgh’s public swimming baths. I had never visited Dalry or Leith Victoria before and had never seen the Turkish Baths in Portobello, so I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked in.”
What makes these locations so special?
“We are so lucky to have these beautiful pools still in use in our city and maybe the photographs will remind people how lovely they are. Dalry baths were buzzing the day I photographed them; there were lots of children chatting and laughing waiting for their swimming lessons and it felt like a real centre point to the community. Some of the others were more serene and calm. Warrender is a very beautiful pool with those big arches at the end, and there are still remnants of old signage etched into the stone. I honestly couldn’t pick a favourite – I really love all of these pools.”
How long did it take you to plan and compile this collection of photographs?
“I started in January and am still working on it now. I’d love to shoot the rest of Scotland’s pools!”
Do you have a favourite piece?
“It would be hard to pick one piece, but the images of swimmers gliding under water really remind me of my childhood, and of holidays spent sitting at the bottom of the pool – that silent weightlessness and calm.”
How many pieces are in the show, and how can people buy a piece if they can’t make it to the exhibition?
“There are about 35 pieces in this exhibition. All of the work is for sale in various sizes and limited editions and can be bought from Saorsa Art Gallery. There will also be an online exhibition catalogue here on SOOuK where people can contact me if they’re interested in a piece.”
See poolside at Saorsa Art Gallery at 8 Deanhaugh Street, Edinburgh, until Sunday July 15. Open daily 12-5pm.
All photography by Soo Burnell.