Kate launches ‘poignant and personal’ book capturing life in lockdown

28 March 2021, 10:08 | Updated: 29 March 2021, 07:50

The Duchess of Cambridge has written the introduction for the new book 'Hold Still: A Portrait Of Our Nation in 2020'.
The Duchess of Cambridge has written the introduction for the new book 'Hold Still: A Portrait Of Our Nation in 2020'. Picture: Matt Porteous/The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge/Kensington Palace/PA/The National Portrait Gallery

By Joe Cook

The Duchess of Cambridge has helped launch a new book - Hold Still - containing “poignant and personal” photographs that capture a “portrait of life in lockdown”.

Launched alongside the National Portrait Gallery, Hold Still: A Portrait Of Our Nation in 2020, features images of key workers and people isolated from family and friends, as well as moments of joy.

The initiative was launched by Kate last year, who herself has shown a keen interest in photography since entering the royal family.

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People of all ages from across the UK were asked to submit a portrait they had taken during the first lockdown.

Out of over 31,000 images submitted, 100 portraits were selected for the book and will also be shown in a digital exhibition before being displayed across the UK in communities.

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The proceeds from sales of Hold Still will be split between mental health charity Mind and The National Portrait Gallery.
The proceeds from sales of Hold Still will be split between mental health charity Mind and The National Portrait Gallery. Picture: The National Portrait Gallery/PA Media

Writing in the introduction, Kate said through the project she “wanted to use the power of photography to create a lasting record of what we were all experiencing”.

The aim was to “capture individuals' stories and document significant moments for families and communities as we lived through the pandemic."

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Helen Pugh's photo of her daughter painting a rainbow, 10 days into shielding, was one of those selected for the book.
Helen Pugh's photo of her daughter painting a rainbow, 10 days into shielding, was one of those selected for the book. Picture: The National Portrait Gallery/PA Media

"For me, the power of the images is in the poignant and personal stories that sit behind them,” the duchess continued.

"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.

"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."

Hospital cleaners and children stuck inside are amongst poignant portraits that show Britain under lockdown.
Hospital cleaners and children stuck inside are amongst poignant portraits that show Britain under lockdown. Picture: The National Portrait Gallery/PA Media
Lotti Sofia's picture of her 'lockdown pal' Pepter was one of the 100 pictures selected.
Lotti Sofia's picture of her 'lockdown pal' Pepter was one of the 100 pictures selected. Picture: The National Portrait Gallery/PA Media

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said the images have created "a unifying and cathartic portrait of life in lockdown".

"The public response to Hold Still, which was spearheaded by our patron, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, has been phenomenal," he added.

"The photographs submitted have helped to create a unifying and cathartic portrait of life in lockdown.

"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 images will tour the country as well as being released in the book Hold Still.
The images will tour the country as well as being released in the book Hold Still. Picture: The National Portrait Gallery/PA Media

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

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer thanked the duchess for supporting the charity, and those who submitted photographs.

He said: "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."