Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020 – HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

Published by: National Portrait Gallery Publications
Pages: 168
Date released: 07/05/2021
Date read: 05/06/2021

Spearheaded by The Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of the National Portrait Gallery, Hold Still was an ambitious community project to create a unique collective portrait of the UK during lockdown. People of all ages were invited to submit a photographic portrait, taken in a six-week period during May and June 2020, focussed on three core themes – Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal, and Acts of Kindness. From these, a panel of judges selected 100 portraits, assessing the images on the emotions and experiences they conveyed.

The final 100 images present a unique and highly personal record of this extraordinary period in our history of people of all ages from across the nation. From virtual birthday parties, handmade rainbows and community clapping to brave NHS staff, resilient keyworkers and people dealing with illness, isolation, and loss. The images convey humour and grief, creativity and kindness, tragedy and hope – expressing and exploring both our shared and individual experiences.

This book doesn’t really need a review, so this won’t be a particularly long one. There’s nothing bad one can say about Hold Still, other than the topic it’s depicting.

The pandemic of 2020, and that we are still currently living with, will be a moment studied in history classes for years to come. It’s hard to know when you’re living smack-back in the middle of a historical moment, but I think we all knew this was something altogether momentous.

Everyone went through a myriad of emotions during these dark times. We were stressed, anxious, angry, sad, confused, scared, lonely, isolated, grieving – but also, we were happy. We were happy we had been given an opportunity to pause, reset and refresh. Granted, none of us would have chosen a pandemic to come along, but we didn’t have a choice in that matter. What we could choose was how to react to it.

Hold Still documents babies, children, students, teenagers, expectant parents, homeschoolers, working mums, working dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, neighbours, friends, strangers, emergency service workers, essential workers, pets – a cross section of how the UK (and by extension, the whole world) has lived through such a terrible event still smiling.

Whilst some of the stories behind the photos may be sad, you can only feel the joy resonating from these individuals’ faces. They have been chosen to tell our story for many years to come.

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