Still Time to Wonder. An exhibition of photographs by Joe Cornish

Riverbank & ruins by Joe Cornish - part of the 'Still Time to Wonder' exhibition at Fountains Abbey 2022

From April to October 2022 see a brand new exhibition by renowned landscape photographer, Joe Cornish. Imagine a stillness which will likely never come to this special place again. Through the lens of Joe Cornish, explore the tactile beauty of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal over three years and during the silence of the coronavirus lockdown.

What's going on throughout this year?

Visit Fountains Mill and the follies throughout the water garden where photographs of this special place will be on display. Go on a journey through the seasons and explore the quiet, and sometimes unruly beauty of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.

Pick up an exhibition map from admissions and take inspiration from Joe’s work and the way both nature and man has sculpted the design of the landscape here. Have a go at snapping your own photos and visiting areas of the estate you might never have seen before.

There’s a children’s trail too. Often the littlest eyes can see the most amazing things and this trail aims to engage these big imaginations. The trail will encourage the exploration of the whimsical themes in Joe’s work like hunting for hidden faces – they’re everywhere when you take the time to look!

Find faces and creatures in the twists and textures of nature
Dancing Demons by Joe Cornish (copyright)
Find faces and creatures in the twists and textures of nature

Where to see Joe’s work

Fountains Mill 

Throughout the upstairs rooms in the mill you can view photos taken at moments rarely seen by visitors. Images captured at dawn, in twilight, in the chaos and stillness of a snowstorm and when the estate was completely deserted.

Photos found here also explore the buildings of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal and their connection to the natural and artificial landscapes surrounding them. The series 'Inner World' which delves into the textures and shapes of trees dominates an entire wall.  All four seasons can be seen throughout the pieces in the mill and you’ll be able to hear from Joe himself as he introduces his exhibition and inspiration in a short film.

Few people have seen the water garden in the fury of a snow storm
Snowstorm by Joe Cornish (copyright to artist)
Few people have seen the water garden in the fury of a snow storm

Banqueting House 

Follow the signposts up to the Banqueting House and be rewarded by a visit to one of the more extensive 18th century follies on the estate. Within the ornate alcoves inside, you’ll find two large scale panoramic photographs of the sweeping views in the water garden. Capturing panoramas at this scale is a tricky process, especially when the subject is filled with crisp shapes and moving water.

Octagon Tower 

Journey up to the Octagon Tower in the water garden to view a series of six photographs that Joe has themed ‘The Fallen’.

From this folly, you’ll have an elevated view into the Studley deer park where living trees thrive among trees that have succumbed to old age, storms, infection or other disasters and now lie where they once stood.

‘The Fallen’ series explores the imaginative possibilities of fallen trees, many of which have a powerfully sculptural quality. The title Joe has given them acknowledges the heroic job they do, providing a refuge for many species of tiny creatures, fungi and microbial life.

Living trees stand watch over the fallen in 'Fallen Ancestors'
Fallen Ancestors by Joe Cornish (copyright)
Living trees stand watch over the fallen in 'Fallen Ancestors'

Temple of Piety 

The low light and quiet atmosphere in the Temple of Piety seems an apt place to take in a series of 4 photos exploring the reverence of some of the mature trees that can be found on the estate. The exhibition map guide will detail where these trees can be found, and it is quite the experience to be in their presence and think about the hundreds of years of history that have passed below their ancient branches.

" Fountains represents a microcosm of our complex relationship with nature over many centuries. Today it is peaceful and serene, a place to wander and wonder. Here we might take exercise, renew friendships, find solace, inspiration, ideas, and perhaps above all the beauty contained in this unique valley."

Meet the artist

Joe Cornish is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest contemporary landscape photographers. He lectures and exhibits in the UK and overseas, leads workshops and has written a number of successful books including his best known; First Light

A working photographer since 1980, Joe is based in North Yorkshire and has devoted almost three decades to landscape photography, especially in the north of England and Scotland.

He seeks to translate a sense of connection with the natural world through the careful study of its texture and colour, space and light. Joe is a renowned thinker on the role of photography, especially in environmentalism, and has written countless articles, many appearing in, which he helped co-found. He is also co-founder and director of the Joe Cornish gallery in Northallerton, and Chair of the Landscape Distinction panel of the Royal Photographic Society, of which he is an honorary Fellow. Joe's most recent books include: Scotland’s Mountains; Scotland’s Coast; The Northumberland Coast; This Land; Capability Brown; Humphry Repton. 

To learn more about Joe Cornish you can visit:

Storm Clouds in Spring
Storm Clouds in spring by Joe Cornish at Fountains Abbey
Storm Clouds in Spring

What’s inspired this exhibition?

Justin Scully, General Manager Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal

“I commissioned Joe to respond to Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal as a landscape that reflects almost 900 years of our cultural and natural heritage. These images will form a permanent record of a moment in time for this World Heritage Site, both pre, during, and post the global pandemic.  Growing up in North Yorkshire, I loved Joe’s work and the way he captured so perfectly the Yorkshire landscape, so it has been a great privilege to work with him here at Fountains.

I hope you find, as I have, that Joe’s work realises the beauty of this landscape, and the special place it holds not only in the history of Yorkshire & our country, but as a treasure for the wider world.”