Soo Burnell and the wonderful waters

Scottish photographer Soo Burnell captures the striking Geometry, dramatic proportions and dreamy color palette of Victorian era swimming pools and local beaches with a cinematic eye. 


Soo Burnell


Edinburgh, Scotland



Artist Q&A

Tell us about your work in three sentences.

My Poolside work explores my passion for architecture and composition. Capturing the striking geometry, dramatic proportions and dreamy colour palette of each space. Carefully using blocks of colour to show interesting shape and proportion. The eye is drawn in to the architecture, then the symmetry and reflections, and finally to the models which are used for scale and proportion.

What is your day-to-day like?

Day to day I work in my studio. I have a lovely studio that I purpose built just on the edge of Edinburgh, it is surrounded by beautiful fields and I love it there. I work alone or with my assistant (and of course my dog Ruby). I always listen to music and probably drink too much coffee :) When I am out on location shooting I am very much focused and in my head. Sometimes I have to remind myself that others don’t always work at the same pace as me.

How did you get started? 

I studied photography in Edinburgh and have worked in various fields of photography over the last 20 years.  

Your process, tools and team?

Before the shoot everything is planned and storyboarded, colour pallets selected etc. I shoot with a Fuji GFX100 and all things Apple.

I have the best team of people around me. My print team, my assistant and so many more great people that help me make this work.

There are plenty of pools in the world, but none quite like these. Serving simultaneously as a portal of the past, present and future, Soo captures moments that are timeless in their totality. Her collection is an homage to the architectural beauty of these structures, the intent behind their creation, and their unique paths, which were shaped - and at times, saved - by the communities they inhabit. While I have not had the opportunity to visit these spaces, I certainly feel as though I have. Soo's craft not only captures my attention with her choice of color and composition, but also has a way of transporting me to the point that I can almost hear the echo of the buildings, and faintly recognize the ripples in the water. 

Soo has become an integral part of our AWA Community, and for a good reason. She provides a pristine peek into places often overlooked - a celebration of simplicity, symmetry, form and function spanning centuries since many of these spaces were originally constructed. But most importantly, she inspires us all to continue diving deeper into all that surrounds us.

Wally Koval, Creator of Accidentally Wes Anderson (From the book "To the water" by Soo Burnell"

 Where do you find your inspiration? Any influences?

Wes Anderson is a huge influence, he has an incredible attention to detail. Lately I've been looking to other cinematic imagery from directors like Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick, while still keeping my signature style.

Best part of the job?

Developing an idea into a completed work, that process of capturing the idea and making it tangible. Also the inspiration that these beautiful locations bring me.

Favorite pieces on ArtStar?

Two Swimmers at Portobello’ The symmetry is so pleasing, I love its orderliness which I find calms my busy mind. I really love the tones of this one too.   

'Sundays at the Beach’ This is a new style I am exploring, still using shapes and proportions. It has a sense of freedom which is very apt as it was taken in the summer of 2020 during the pandemic.

Can you tell us the story behind that piece?

‘Sundays at the Beach’ was taken while all of the pools were closed during the pandemic in the summer of 2020. It was such a relief to be out of lockdown and I think the sense of freedom shows in the piece. After the shoot we stayed on the beach to have a picnic. It was probably one of the best days of the whole year and I am delighted with some of the new pieces of work that came out of it. I would very much like to develop the beach series further.

Soo Burnell Swim Team at Tyninghame


Soo Burnell Sundays at the beach


What do you hope to accomplish with your art? How do you want people to feel when they see it?

I love hearing from people when they’ve received their pictures, hopefully they bring a little happiness and remind people of how lovely some of these old pools are.

What role does art play in your home?

The style and decor of my home and studio is very much centered around creating a place to feel calm. I choose colours and natural textures very carefully, I also choose Art this way and love anything with the stillness of water. 

ArtStar Soo Burnell Swim girls at Warrender

ArtStar Soo Burnell Water Polo at Warrender

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