Hold Still, an unprecedented digital exhibition showing 100 finalist moving portraits of people during the pandemic lockdown and selected from 31,598 submissions, was unveiled this week by Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, who spearheaded the project, and the National Portrait Gallery, @NPGLondon.
Launched in May, the community photography project encouraged people of all ages to document life in the U.K. during the coronavirus outbreak and to submit their own photographs focused on three core themes – Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal and Acts of Kindness.
The Duchess of Cambridge was joined by a panel of judges to select the hundred final images from the submissions made to Hold Still.
“When it was announced 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,” Rev.Tim Hayward explained.
A New Hero
“This is Tony Hudgell, a five-year-old patient at Evelina London Children’s Hospital,” the David Tett says of the photo above. “He walked a total of 10 kilometers throughout June 2020 on his new prosthetic legs to thank the hospital that saved his life.”
“As a baby, he suffered horrific abuse at the hands of his biological parents. Due to extreme injuries, he had to have both his legs amputated and ended up on life support. He had been learning to walk again, and after seeing Captain Tom Moore on the news walking lengths of his garden, Tony said ‘I could do that’ and decided to set his own challenge. He set out to raise £500, but raised over £1.2 million for NHS charities. Tony’s determination, positivity and strength is inspiring. This was a huge challenge but he was not phased. I visited him to take photos and couldn’t believe the speed he moved at! It was a privilege to meet him. His courage is truly inspiring and he is a great example to anyone who believes in themselves that they can make a difference.”
A Unique Record
The official launch of the digital exhibit appeared on Monday via the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s @kensingtonroyal social media account announcing the unveiling of the final 100 portraits: “Today’s the day!…The Hold Still digital exhibition is now live and we are delighted to share with you the final 100 portraits selected from the 31,598 submissions!”
The accompanying slideshow of images is overlaid with audio, including news bulletins about the lockdown, moving extracts from the queen’s special address in April and clips of the Duchess speaking about the photography project.
“The images present a unique record of our shared and individual experiences during this extraordinary period of history, conveying humor and grief, creativity and kindness, tragedy and hope,” the National Portrait Gallery said.
The #Hold Still2020 project aimed to capture and document the spirit, mood, hopes, fears and feelings of the nation as its inhabitants deal with the pandemic.
To show her support to the Hold Still photo exhibition, the queen sent a message of encouragement to those who entered the Duchess of Cambridge’s #HoldStill2020 life-in-lockdown initiative: “The Duchess of Cambridge and I were inspired to see how the photographs have captured the resilience of the British people at such a challenging time, whether that is through celebrating frontline workers, recognizing community spirit or showing the efforts of individuals supporting those in need.
The Stockport Spider Men was started by friends Jason Baird and Andrew Baldock, who took to the streets at the start of lockdown dressed as Spiderman to use their daily exercise time to keep the children smiling.
This then turned into a national phenomenon with more than 50 other members of the general public joining dressed as various other characters. In addition to visiting the community to bring “social distancing smiles,” Jason also set up a Justgiving fund for the NHS Charities Together, which in the four months of lockdown raised over £60,000 for the real superheroes, the National Health Service.
The Duchess Overwhelmed
“I’ve been so overwhelmed by the public’s response to Hold Still, the quality of the images has been extraordinary, and the poignancy and the stories behind the images have been equally as moving as well,” Kate Middleton wrote of the exhibit.
“So I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has entered and taken part,” she added. “And a big ‘thank you’ to my fellow judges. I hugely appreciate the time and dedication that they have shown towards the project.”
The final 100 photos “present a unique and highly personal record of this extraordinary period in our history. From virtual birthday parties, handmade rainbows and community clapping to brave NHS staff, resilient key workers and people dealing with illness, isolation and loss,” the curators said.
A selection of the photographs featured in the digital exhibition will also be shown in towns and cities across the U.K. later in the year.
The Hold Still digital exhibition is available to view online at www.npg.org.uk/holdstill from 14 September 2020.