The Old Edinburgh Royal Infirmary

The Old Edinburgh Infirmary - ali cleary photography_14.jpg

The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary

The life, colour & light still breathed through the concrete membrane.

The building fascinates me, the history, invention, intelligence & innovation, the dark tales & those of miracles. The thousands of lives saved & brought into the world within its walls. The dedication of its staff, its family, its teachers & patients, the traumas sustained & the relief of light.

The building is a symbol of hope, love, resilience, change, history & wonder & so much more to so many. The medical techniques learned here have saved lives across the world without the knowledge of its heritage.  


The collection are a way to commemorate the building & also the old friend that I had the privilege to explore the hospital with, Steve Nibloe who we sadly lost in 2010. 

Steve & I first broke into the building in 2004, an obvious haunt for the young(ish) & curious photographer. It was easy to break in & we entered mostly through the winter, even in the snow, along with the foxes we met. We just wanted to explore & take some shots, although freezing weather, incredible architecture in ruins & great talks, distracted us from really shooting too much. The last night we entered we stepped over the line & entered the main clock tower building... it was freezing & we stopped to get our flasks out to have a cuppa, it was then we heard a thunderous rumble & 3 security guards came running at us with metal bars! Thankfully they accepted a cup of tea & we were escorted from the building only after their grumbles about extra paperwork. We were then asked to return to meet the architect & apologise to him, ironically it worked out brilliantly & the architect then assisted us in accessing the building through the day, which is where this collection was born, using the natural light's breath.

When we started exploring it was at a very emotionally raw point in my life, after finding out details of my full birth certificate & other revelations, our humour & adventure was quite a remedy. He was a great human & taken too young, the time we spent together as friends was brief considering the years we knew each other, his friendship at the point of creating these images was invaluable & I will always have a heap of gratitude for his kindness, wise words & friendship.

I only ever took one portrait of Steve, & it was just playing around with medium format polaroid backs in the studio in our first year at University, both mature students & daft at heart yet the image speaks so much more now.

 One pose, one shot, one veil of light, just one photograph, for an Original.

When light paints heaven.


ali cleary all rights reserved to the artist

Steve Nibloe, 2001