SOO Burnell has spent the past 18 months capturing images of Victorian swimming baths in Scotland and beyond. Cast an eye over the collection of photographs that fill these pages and it is impossible not to be mesmerised by their tranquillity and still beauty.

It was a project that the Edinburgh photographer stumbled into almost by accident. Burnell, 38, had originally planned a one-off shoot at Glenogle Swim Centre in Stockbridge to boost her portfolio of water-themed prints.

Stepping through the doors, however, she found herself spellbound by the architecture. Gazing up at the high ceiling and row of changing rooms that flanked two sides of the water, it was in that moment the idea for her series, Poolside, was born.

"Glenogle was the pool I grew up swimming in and I would go there during the summer holidays," says Burnell. "As a child I spent a lot of time jumping in and swimming around, while not appreciating the architecture.

"After photographing Glenogle, I started to remember all the different ones we have in Edinburgh. I used to swim for Warrender Baths Club when I was younger and went to Portobello with my gran. She swam at Portobello twice a week well into her nineties."

Burnell has since photographed six Victorian-era swimming pools across the Scottish capital: Glenogle, Warrender, Portobello, Leith Victoria, Dalry and Drumsheugh Baths.

Many of these facilities have their roots in a wider scheme from the mid-to-late 19th century which saw public baths built to promote cleanliness and hygiene amongst the working classes who did not have access to sanitation.

Today Glenogle, Warrender, Portobello, Dalry and Leith Victoria are all public pools run by Edinburgh Leisure, while Drumsheugh is the oldest private members' swimming club in the city.

In recent weeks, Burnell spent time photographing the Western Baths Club in Glasgow and has added the Edwardian-era Victoria Baths in Manchester, as well as the late 1920s art deco delights of Marshall Street Baths in London and Molitor in Paris, to her growing collection.

Burnell exhibited some of her early work from Poolside last year and next weekend a second instalment will go on show in Edinburgh showcasing her latest images. "The idea behind it is the architecture," she explains. "That is my main passion for all these buildings; the absolute beauty of the spaces.

"I also drew inspiration from film. The way that Wes Anderson picks a colour palette and runs with it through his films. He shoots everything straight on. It is quite quirky and odd looking. I thought that fitted well with these spaces, particularly films like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Grand Budapest Hotel which are two of my favourites."

Her enthusiasm is infectious as she talks about the project. Burnell reveals how she has now started researching pools all round the world. "I have become a little obsessed," she laughs, adding that her to-do list includes the historic swimming facilities in Govanhill and Maryhill, both in Glasgow, as well as Mounts Baths in Northampton and a clutch of pools in Birmingham.

There is something very restful about gazing at Burnell's work. You can almost hear the silence when looking at her photographs. "It is so magical being in there when nobody else is," she says. "It is still and quiet. The acoustics are amazing.

"I can't get across enough the calmness and stillness of the water. They are just my favourite places to be and such beautiful spaces."

Burnell says she finds it impossible to name a favourite. "I really do love them all," she says. "The colour palette at Marshall Street in London with the models wearing red and all that beautiful duck egg blue, I really love that. It is a long pool and the shape of the arched ceiling reflects beautifully in the water, it almost makes a complete circle.

"Manchester's Victoria Baths is closed, so there is no water. It has three pools: a first-class gentleman's pool, a regular gentleman's pool and a smaller pool for ladies. They all had to enter the building through separate entrances.

"There is a mahogany turnstile and then as soon as you get inside it is tiled floor to ceiling with dark green tiles. The history in that building is incredible."

Another that Burnell fell in love with was Piscine Molitor, the Parisian swimming pool and hotel complex which gave its name to the main character in Yann Martel's Man Booker Prize-winning novel, Life of Pi.

The art deco pool, designed to resemble an ocean liner, first opened in 1929. It was here that the modern bikini was unveiled to great fanfare in the late 1940s. However, Molitor eventually fell into disuse and was closed in 1989. Following extensive refurbishment, it re-opened in 2014.

"Apparently, it was Paris's most popular pool and anyone and everyone used to meet there," says Burnell. "If you look up the shots from that time it looks amazing.

"When I put on my exhibition last year there was a French lady who was holidaying in Edinburgh who came in and bought a piece. It was her who told me about Molitor. I had seen Life of Pi but hadn't made the connection."

Poolside has had its share of challenging moments. "Things like hanging off balconies," she says. "Travel obviously and co-ordinating everyone's schedules."

Not to forget gaining access for shoots. "Molitor was particularly challenging because most of the other pools I have managed to hire out or been given to use for a certain amount of time which is a lovely way to work. But Molitor wasn't closed at all. I think we shot for eight hours in the end.

"It looked so glamorous in the shots with the sun shining and it is such a sophisticated place but behind the scenes it was quite stressful at times. We would just get the pool empty and the reflections then someone else would come in.

"We were queuing outside at 6am to get into the pool and there was a queue of 20 French men in their dressing gowns also trying to get in. Molitor was so much fun but hard work too. It is quite a different vibe to the others."

There were other aspects outwith her control too. "Manchester was absolutely freezing," she recalls. "Most of the pools were roasting and we ended up sweating because it was so hot. But with Manchester being derelict it was very cold.

"We shot it late October or early November. There was no heating in there. My poor model was a bit blue by the end of the shoot."

However, Burnell is quick to assert that the upsides far outweighed any negatives. "The architecture alone is such a massive passion of mine," she says. "Being able to see these buildings and get them to myself for a little while was incredible.

"All the signage – things like the deep-end signs or the markings and etchings at the side of the pool with 4ft deep and so on – are really beautiful. I love the symmetry."

Nor is she alone in her penchant for pools. "What has taken my breath away is how much love people have for these pools. They seem to appeal to so many people," she says.

"Before I opened my exhibition last year, as I was hanging it, I did have a moment of thinking: 'What are you doing?' I hadn't shown the work to anybody other than a few pieces on Instagram. I didn't have any idea of what people's reaction to it would be.

"I was so overwhelmed by the response. People were travelling to see it. There are pensioners who came all the way across Edinburgh on the bus specifically to see the photographs. Some older people told me how they used to take their bath in the local baths because they didn't have a bath at home.

"People will happily talk all day about their pool. Everyone seems to have a connection to the one they grew up next to or that they swam in or learned to swim in. There seems to be massive nostalgia. It appeals to a lot of people on many different levels.

"I have done so much research trying to find pools all over Britain and across Europe, and I haven't found a place that has as many still open as Edinburgh. We are lucky to have them. They are so well used and a centre point for the communities."

As for Burnell, the project is far from finished. "My dream would be to get a collection together and put them in a book," she says. "I have a few other places on my list, Berlin being top just now and others in Paris and Vienna. I am going to spend some time working my way round."

Poolside opens at Saorsa Art Gallery, 8 Deanhaugh Street, Edinburgh next Saturday (June 15) and runs until June 28. Visit