Duchess of Cambridge shares selection of favourite Hold Still photos

The Duchess of Cambridge has shared a selection favourite images from the ‘Hold Still’ campaign, writing about them for The Sunday Times.

Hold Still was launched back in May, as Britain was in the grip the coronavirus pandemic, and nearly two months into lockdown. Catherine partnered with the National Portrait Gallery for the project, wanting to capture the spirit of the UK during the unusual and difficult situation.

“Keep smiling through. Just like you always do. ’Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away” — Jessica Sommerville
“This is my darling Nan, my ray of shining light. She raised me to be strong and kind. I took this portrait when I wasn’t allowed in the house. Her smile was still as bright even though I hadn’t been able to cuddle her for months.”

Speaking of the thousands of photos she helped asses, Kate said she was ‘overwhelmed’ by the response.”Every submission told a unique story — from moments of joy, love and community spirit to deep sadness, pain, isolation and loss. It’s during times such as these we realise more than ever the significance of human connection.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has affected all of us in some way,” the Duchess wrote, “and I launched Hold Still with the National Portrait Gallery to give everyone an opportunity to share their own stories, so that together we could create a collective portrait of our nation that would record our experiences during lockdown.”

“I hope that the final 100 images will serve to showcase the experiences and emotions borne during the pandemic here in the UK, pay tribute to the awe-inspiring efforts of all those who have worked to protect those around them, and provide a space for us to pause and reflect upon these truly extraordinary times.”

Prayers for our community — The Rev Tim Hayward
“When it was announced that church buildings were to be closed to the public to reduce the transmission of the virus, I wanted to assure our community that although we couldn’t gather physically, their photos in church were a symbol that they and their loved ones were still very much in our thoughts and prayers.”

The Duchess of Cambridge was joined on the judging panel for Hold Still by Nicholas Cullinan, the director of the National Portrait Gallery; Lemn Sissay, writer and poet; Ruth May, the chief nursing officer for England; and the photographer Maryam Wahid.

The 100 finalist images they selected will feature in a digital exhibition on the National Portrait Gallery website from 14th September.

Empty — Julie Thiberg
“This was just before lockdown happened, when I took my son shopping. I happily got a big trolley and was surprised at how easy it was to get a parking space, only to find the Sainsbury’s superstore completely empty — only a few oils, spices and clothes and toys were left. My son Leo had just turned three years old and didn’t understand what was happening at the time. Although he did pick up that our shopping trip was very different on this day. As a parent, I probably experienced silent panic and a fear that this type of shopping would be the new normal. I decided to take the picture to remember a unique day that would be the start of a long and challenging time. We had been to pay for our wedding ceremony, although we were realising it was unlikely to happen, so walking into an empty shop made us only more worried. I look forward to telling Leo all about this time when he’s a lot older.”

Gimba — the ward host — Hassan Akkad
“During the peak of the pandemic I signed up to work as a cleaner in a Covid-19 ward at my local hospital, Whipps Cross. Within days, Gimba, our ward host, called me ‘my son’; I noticed she loved eating rice. Gimba migrated from Nigeria to Britain and has been working at the hospital for more than a decade, commuting for two hours to get to work. On the day the photograph was taken Gimba had received the terrible news from Nigeria that her mother had fallen ill and had been rushed to hospital. Gimba cried all day and was heartbroken that she couldn’t fly home to see her mother and look after her because of travel restrictions during the pandemic. She declined to take any time off, saying, ‘I have to feed my patients.’ I took this photo while Gimba was having lunch in the staff room, after having prepared meals for all 18 Covid-19 patients in our ward. She was having chicken and rice.”

We’re really lucky to have a garden — Robert Coyle
“The weekend is here, lockdown continues and Bernadette and Francis enjoy the garden. One Friday, as I finished emailing at the kitchen table, my wife had taken a chair and a drink outside to enjoy the evening sun. We were doing our best, like the rest of the country, with work, childcare and news of daily death tolls. Our son had taken to relieving himself on the plants, much to our initial amusement and then slight frustration.”

The first kiss — Ali Harris and Leigh Harris
“This is the moment that our third baby boy came into the world, in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by medical staff in full PPE, and the first thing he did was try to give his mummy a kiss through the protective screening and Mummy’s mask. This beautiful moment was captured by Daddy, Leigh, and it was love at first sight for all of us and we have been besotted ever since. Despite everything going on in the world, children and babies in particular have a way of keeping us grounded and focused (most of the time!), and we are so proud to have brought a new life into the world during the height of this pandemic.”


Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments!

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