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Photographer Soo Burnell makes a splash with series Poolside

Elegant swimmers posing by historic swimming pools in the UK and France are the subject of a photographic series by Soo Burnell.

The vast proportions, symmetrical designs and pastel accents of the buildings are emphasised by the minimal styling of the spaces, statue-like figures and the stillness of the water. Appearing like still lives, their bold, graphic and dreamy qualities have drawn comparisons to the style of Wes Anderson.

'Poolside swimmers at Milotor'. Photography: Soo Burnell
‘Poolside swimmers at Milotor’. Photography: Soo Burnell

Burnell says she was drawn to the architecture of the pools namely ‘their sense of space, high ceilings, glass roofs, symmetry, geometry, old signage, tiling and then all of that reflected in the still water. Although I love them architecturally, there is also a lot of nostalgia surrounding them.’

The Edinburgh-based artist started photographing the Victorian-era pools in her home city early last year and has added to the Poolside series, finding more examples in locations in Manchester, London, Glasgow and Paris.

'Swimmer on the side of Western Baths'. Photography: Soo Burnell
‘Swimmer on the side of Western Baths’. Photography: Soo Burnell

The inclusion of the swimmers – who wear vintage swimming caps as a nod to the period of the architecture – give a sense of scale. Burnell explains: ‘By adding a human element, you can see just how vast the pools are. I love the still calmness of the water; it took 20 minutes to get it to completely settle like that.’

Many of these old pools are public and still well used by their communities, says Burnell. ‘Lots of people who come to see my work have stories about the pools, whether it be learning to swim or just lovely childhood memories.’

'Western Baths in Glasgow'. Photography: Soo Burnell
‘Western Baths in Glasgow’. Photography: Soo Burnell
‘Swim team on the rings’. Photography: Soo Burnell
'Victoria Baths in Manchester'. Photography: Soo Burnell
‘Victoria Baths in Manchester’. Photography: Soo Burnell
‘Portobello Swim Team’. Photography: Soo Burnell

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