The Duchess of Cambridge Released Shortlist of ‘Hold Still 2020 – A Portrait of the Nation’

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The Duchess of Cambridge talking to the judges of NPG Hold Still 2020
Kensington Royal

When the whole world was battling against the Coronavirus, in May 2020, The Duchess of Cambridge brought a unique project to the front – ‘Hold Still 2020’ to present the picture of the Nation during the lockdown. Completely free and open to all ages and abilities in the UK, “Hold Still 2020 was an ambitious artistic project to create a unique photographic portrait that captured a snapshot of the UK amid the lockdown when people were staying home to fight against the Coronavirus. The project showcases the lives of those who have put everything on hold to help protect the NHS – and the reality of the everyday life of the frontline helpers.


Earlier this week, Palace released a teaser hinting that Hold Still had found its #100. The Duchess and the National Portrait Gallery had asked the Brits to submit photographic portraits, taken by themselves during these extraordinary times, which respond to one of the following themes: Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal, and Acts of Kindness. The year 2020 went downhill due to the COVID-19 and life came to a halt as the lockdown was imposed. This idea was born within the first month of the lockdown and today just after 3 months we are seeing its result. The Duchess put her passion and education together in this project.


Out of 31598 submissions, 100 shortlisted portraits will feature in a gallery without walls – a one-of-a-kind digital exhibition open to all on September 14 this year.  The Duchess of Cambridge personally curated the 100 shortlisted portraits. She was joined by the Director of National Portrait Gallery, Nicholas Cullinan; Writer and poet, Lemn Sissay MBE; Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May and  2018 Portrait of Britain Winner Photographer Maryam Wahid in the selection panel. The final 100 portraits create a snapshot of the UK over the past few months and reflect resilience and bravery, humour and sadness, creativity and kindness, and human tragedy and hope.


Talking to the judging panel on a Zoom call from Balmoral castle, where The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge along with their three kids are spending time with The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duchess said,

“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.  I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has entered and taken part. And a big thank you to my fellow judges. I hugely appreciate the time and dedication that they have shown towards the project.

Palace released three shortlisted pictures depicting three themes out of the 100. Some of the pictures will be showcased in towns and cities across the UK toward the end of the year. The National Portrait Gallery is closed until 2023 for essential building works. The historic and world-renowned collections of the gallery will be touring galleries across the UK during the next three years.


The first picture released was submitted by Hassan Akkad, a cleaner at a hospital in north London. The picture shows his colleague on a lunch break. The woman, Gimba, had just received news that her mother had fallen ill in Nigeria and was unable to return to visit her. She stayed behind to take care of her patients, making meals for them. About the picture, talking to the Sunday Times, Akkad said, “I took this photo while Gimba was having lunch in the staff room, after having prepared meals for all eighteen COVID-19 patients in our ward. She was having chicken and rice”. Praising the quality of the images throughout the competition, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Nicholas Cullinan, said:

“31,598 submissions is just extraordinary. And then just beyond the numbers of submissions, I think just the extraordinary nature of the images, both uplifting and some very sad, I think it’s been a really difficult thing to select them because there are so many extraordinary images, so I think we’ve all been through that process.”


The next picture is of Reverend Tim Hayward standing in a church in Bunbury with photos of his parishioners in the pews of the church while he is delivering a sermon.  Reverend said, “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 get together physically, their photos in the church were a symbol that they and their loved ones were still very much in our thoughts and prayers.”


The third picture has a young boy in a garden with his mother. Taken by Robert Coyle of his family in the garden, the picture depicts the family life during the COVID-19 lockdown. Robert said, “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.”

"TheKensington Palace Instagram Stories

We saw a few of the entries released in May too. This week some of the shortlisted images were exclusively released for the Sunday Times. Talking about the project, The Duchess of Cambridge said,

Throughout recent history, photographs have recorded people’s lives and experiences — telling not just an individual’s story, but also documenting significant moments for families, communities, nations and the world as a whole. The coronavirus pandemic has affected all of us in some way, 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.

With more than 31,000 entries, my fellow judges and I had a huge challenge on our hands selecting just 100 final portraits. 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. 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.

The Duchess of Cambridge wore green zara floral dress for the Hold still 2020 shortlist pic release
Kensington Palace

For the video call, The Duchess of Cambridge chose a green Zara floral print dress with white lace trim. Thanks to MiddletonMaven on Twitter for the id.

The Duchess of Cambridge wore Zara Florallace trim dress

The €39.95 midi dress was from the label’s ‘Join the Life’ Spring 2020 collection and is not available anymore. The dress featured a ruffled hemline and white lace trim at the neckline and sleeves.

Duchess of Cambridge wore Accessorize Twisted Circle Drop Earrings
Accessorize Twisted Circle Drop Earrings

Catherine paired the outfit with her Accessorize Twisted Circle Drop Earrings.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Balmoral Castle

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis met with Her Majesty the Queen for the first time since March. The family was staying at the Anmer Hall at Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. The Sun earlier this week reported that the family arrived in Scottish resident Balmoral castle.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Balmoral where the Queen and Prince Philip remain in a Covid- secure “bubble”. Sources said that Her Majesty spent some time with great-grandchildren George, seven, Charlotte, five, and Louis, two, outside on the 50,000-acre estate.

Kate and Wills were described as feeling “over the moon” to make the reunion and wanted to show their support after a “difficult year”. The Queen, 94, and Prince Philip, 99, are still subject to strict measures dubbed by staff as “HMS Bubble”.

A royal source said: “Like every family, they’ve been desperate to get back together and over the moon it was possible this weekend. They’ve all been up there for a few days and although there are very strict procedures with social distancing, they’ve been able to find ways of seeing each other outside. It’s obviously been a difficult year for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh seeing the country dealing with the pandemic, so they were all keen to go there to show their support.”

I believe, later this week, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be back at their London residence Kensington Palace as Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s school is opening on September 07.  The Duchess will resume duties once kids are settled down in the city after spending almost 6 months in the countryside although I believe the engagements will still be embargoed.

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