Duchess of Cambridge launches ‘Hold Still’ photography book

The Duchess of Cambridge is launching a book containing the final 100 photographs from the ‘Hold Still’ exhibition, documenting pandemic life.

Entitled ‘Hold Still: A Portrait Of Our Nation In 2020’, the book is set to serve as a ‘lasting record of what we were all experiencing’ according to Catherine.

The Duchess of Cambridge launched the project in May 2020 with the aim of showing life within the UK during the first national lockdown as Covid-19 took hold. Catherine has previously shared a selection of her favourite images from the ‘Hold Still’ campaign, writing about them in an exclusive article for The Sunday Times.

A new portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge has been released ahead of a new book marking the first anniversary of the first UK lockdown. (@KensingtonRoyal/Twitter).

Writing the introduction to the book, The Duchess of Cambridge notes: “When we look back at the COVID-19 pandemic in decades to come, we will think of the challenges we all faced…. the loved ones we lost, the extended isolation from our families and friends and the strain placed on our key workers.

“But we will also remember the positives: the incredible acts of kindness, the helpers and heroes who emerged from all walks of life, and how together we adapted to a new normal.

“Through Hold Still, I wanted to use the power of photography to create a lasting record of what we were all experiencing – to capture individuals’ stories and document significant moments for families and communities as we lived through the pandemic.”

The mother-of-three highlights the amazing response from the public, including The Countess of Wessex who submitted her own photograph: “In May 2020 we asked the public to send in photographies, which showed their experiences of life in lockdown and we were thrilled by the response. Over 31,000 submissions were received from people of all ages and backgrounds and all parts of the United Kingdom.

“One hundred final images were chosen, creating a collective portrait of our nation. From photographs of NHS staff caring for those battling the virus, to families sharing tender moments through closed windows, each of the images gave an insight into what others were going through during the unprecedented time.

“For me, the power of the images is in the poignant and personal stories that sit behind them. I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak to some of the photographers and sitters, to hear their stories first-hand – from moments of joy, love and community spirit, to deep sadness, pain, isolation and loss.’

Akuac: This is Akuac. I met her at Black Lives Matter protest at the U.S Embassy in London and asked to take her picture, so she took off her mask and stood for me. We’ve been friends since and I hope we will be for many years to come. Her strength and spirit is beautiful and unique. For me, the image reminds us that all of ours are. Every single one. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. The countless others that we know of and that we don’t. I hope that the new normal after COVID-19 is kindness, equality, compassion, love. I hope the new normal is really seeing what’s important-looking after each other and the planet. If this pandemic has taught us anything it must be that all we need really is the wellbeing of our loved ones.

“A common theme of those conversations was how lockdown reminded us about the importance of human connection and the huge value we place on the relationships we have with the people around us. Although we were physically apart, these images remind us that, as families, communities and a nation we need each other more than we had ever realised.”

The Duchess signed off her introduction by thanking a number of key people and organisations: “Thank you to Nicholas Cullinan and our fellow judges for the time they invested in the project and their thoughtful consideration throughout the judging process.

“I would also like to extend my gratitude to everyone at the National Portrait Gallery for embracing Hold Still so enthusiastically, and for their dedication and support in helping to bring this project to life. My thanks too, to the Co-op, for all that they did in helping to take the final projects back to the communities and people who created them, through our community exhibition and this book.

“Finally I would like thank everyone who took the time to submit an image – your stories are the most crucial part of this project. I hope that the final 100 images showcase the experiences and emotions borne during this extraordinary moment in history, pay tribute to the awe-inspiring efforts of all who have worked to protect those around them and provide a space for us to pause and reflect upon this unparalleled period.”

One of the 100 photographs featured in the exhibition – Where’s Grandpa?: The moment when Gaby could embrace her grandmother for the first time, together with her mother Vanessa, a month after her grandfather Kevin FitzGerald died from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) at the Royal Brompton Hospital on 19 April 2020. ‘Where’s Grandpa?’, they whispered as they cried.

Speaking about the new book, Dr Nicholas Cullinan, director of the NPG, said: “The public response to Hold Still, which was spearheaded by our patron, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, has been phenomenal. The photographs submitted have helped to create a unifying and cathartic portrait of life in lockdown.”

He added: “Hold Still is an important record of this extraordinary moment in our history – expressed through the faces of the nation – and we hope will remain so for generations to come.”

The proceeds made from sales will help to support mental health and arts projects around the UK, and will be split between mental health charity, Mind, and the gallery.

The Duchess of Cambridge has focused on tackling mental health issues, alongside her husband The Duke of Cambridge, and they have both recognised and discussed the mental health implications of the last year.

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer thanked the Duchess for supporting the charity, and those who submitted photographs. “The coronavirus pandemic is a mental health emergency as well as a physical one. The devastating loss of life, the impact of lockdown, and any recession that lies ahead means there has never been a more crucial time to prioritise our mental health.

“This inspiring collection of portraits illustrates the impact of the pandemic in all its complexity, but also how creativity, art and human connection can help us find meaning in unprecedented challenges.”

The book will be available from bookshops and online from 7th May, here and here.

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