The New Digital Exhibition To See: Hold Still

One might wonder whether the Duchess of Cambridge could have predicted what an emotional series of photographs would make their way into her competition when she launched it. At once moving, funny and beyond that – true to life – a new virtual exhibition, Hold Still, is a portrait of our nation in the fight against coronavirus. An ambitious community project led by the National Portrait Gallery, the exhibition captures the spirit of the country in 2020.


Back in May, the Duchess of Cambridge and the  National Portrait Gallery launched Hold Still, a community photography project designed to capture the spirit, mood, hopes, fears and feelings of the UK as it continues to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. This week, the edited collection of 100 images launches as a digital exhibition.

Hold Still invited people of all ages from across the UK to submit a photographic portrait they had taken during lockdown, focusing on three core themes – ‘Helpers and Heroes’, ‘Your New Normal’ and ‘Acts of Kindness’. From over 31,000 submissions, a selection panel – including the duchess, the gallery’s director Nicholas Cullinan, author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, chief nursing officer for England Ruth May, and award-winning photographer Maryam Wahid – chose 100 images, all of which are now featured in the digital show. The images were captured on phones or cameras and each image was assessed on the emotion and experience it conveys rather than its photographic quality or technical expertise. The final 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. A selection of these photographs will also be shown in cities across the UK later in the year.

The duchess has a longstanding interest in photography and has been a patron of the National Portrait Gallery since 2012. For 164 years, the National Portrait Gallery has existed to tell the stories of the people of the UK through the medium of portraits. Now closed for restoration works until spring 2023, the London landmark is finding new ways to document and share collective stories of an experience which has impacted everybody’s lives in a multitude of ways. Suffice to say, this new collaborative exhibition is a great way to start.

Hold Still is available to view online now.

Visit NPG.org.uk

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