The Duchess of Cambridge’s ‘Hold Still 2020’ is Emotional, Inspirational and Historical

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And the moment is here. The Duchess of Cambridge’s artistic lockdown project ‘Hold Still 2020 – The Portrait of a Nation‘ has reached the destination  – A digital Gallery at the National Portrait Gallery. The photography project asked the Brits to submits pictures taken by themselves depicting their life during the lockdown.


Every submission tells a story – the story of emotions, happiness, courage, strength, community. Although the project has pictures from the UK only, I am sure after looking at all those beautiful 100 portraits we all can relate to them. The lockdown caused by Coronavirus has impacted our lives in many ways. We are still struggling to find our way back to our normal pre-COVID life. The brilliant project will be a part of history and will become a story of resilience in itself for the upcoming generations showing them what it was like to live through the challenging time of the lockdown. We can easily call it ‘Portrait of the World’.


Launching the Hold Still in May this year, The Duchess of Cambridge was aiming to build a lasting illustration that shows life during the COVID-19 pandemic. The final 100 images out of more than 31000 portraits are brilliant pictures showing every angle of life during the stay-at-home period. Head to the Digital gallery on the National Portrait Gallery’s website for the complete exhibition.

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Catherine has also shown some of the final 100 pictures to the Queen during their recent stay at the Balmoral Castle. The Queen has been so touched by the images that she wrote a letter of support. The Duchess showed the Queen pictures of Holding Tight by Katy Rudd and Joe Wyer, Sami by Greg Hutton, The Look of Lockdown by Lotti Sofia, and Everyday hero – Richard by Arnhel de Serra.


Last month, talking to the judging panel of the project, The Duchess of Cambridge 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.


New Mother kissing her baby through plastic sheets, tired but determined frontline workers, homeschooling, work from home, live-streamed funerals,  grandparents meeting grandkids from plastic shields, nation supporting the NHS, Random acts of kindness.


From moments of isolation to the Cheering community, the pictures give you a pause and a moment to re-think and maybe a tear or two to your eyes. And after looking at the exhibition, I can totally understand what The Duchess of Cambridge was feeling.  The director of the National Portrait Gallery, Nicholas Cullinan, said,

“the aim was to provide a portrait of Britain and a snapshot of the different experiences people have gone through, whether sad or heartwarming”. He said the number of submissions was extraordinary. “The other thing that is really lovely is that it is so democratic and so inclusive. These photographs have been submitted by so many members of the public all across the country, different backgrounds, and all ages from four to 75 years old. The breadth of it is really extraordinary.

We all read about people having to attend loved ones’ funerals over Zoom, but then seeing the images of that and hearing the stories behind it was incredibly moving. Judging was a huge honour but also really difficult. I think we all had some sleepless nights.”

Cullinan hoped the project might provide “a sense of unity and an understanding of what we have all gone through”. In the future it will be seen as a fascinating historical record.


Hope one day we will be able to see the rest of the collection too.

Hold Still – A portrait of our nation in 2020

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