Kate Middleton launches poignant photo book capturing highs and lows of pandemic life

Kate Middleton thanks the Hold Still entrants for taking part

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Launched by Kate and 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. Its publication follows the anniversary of the first national coronavirus lockdown on March 23, and it will be available from bookshops and online from May 7.

For me, the power of the images is in the poignant and personal stories that sit behind them

Duchess of Cambridge

The Hold Still initiative was launched by the duchess and the National Portrait Gallery last year and invited people of all ages from across the UK to submit a portrait they had taken during the first lockdown.

From more than 31,000 images submitted, 100 portraits were selected and shown in a digital exhibition before being displayed across the UK in communities.

Writing in the introduction, Kate said the portraits illustrate a collection of “poignant and personal stories” from the past year.

She said: “Through Hold Still, I wanted to use the power of photography to create a lasting record of what we were all experiencing – to capture individuals’ stories and document significant moments for families and communities as we lived through the pandemic.

“For me, the power of the images is in the poignant and personal stories that sit behind them.

“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.”

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

He said: “The public response to Hold Still, which was spearheaded by our patron, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, has been phenomenal.

“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.”

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.

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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.”

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