In May of this VERY long year, England’s National Portrait Gallery along with the gallery’s patron, Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge (who has a degree in art history and is a very talented photographer herself), launched an ambitious community project, called HOLD STILL, to collect photographs of the United Kingdom under lockdown. The Gallery and the Duchess invited people of all ages to submit a photographic portrait, taken in a six-week period during May and June, focusing on three core themes – Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal, and Acts of Kindness. Over 31,000 submissions were received from across the country, with entrants ranging from 4 to 75 years-old.
A panel of judges—including the Duchess and National Portrait Gallery Director Nicholas Cullinan—met in July via Zoom to take on the daunting task of narrowing the entries down to just 100 final portraits. The finalists went on view today (September 14) in a special digital exhibition, presenting a unique and highly personal record of this extraordinary time in the UK’s history (as well as the whole planet’s). The images “convey humour and grief, creativity and kindness, tragedy and hope – expressing and exploring both our shared and individual experiences.” Each image is accompanied by the photographer’s personal story behind the subject and capturing the photograph.
The National Gallery is hoping to eventually take the 100 photographs on the road across the UK, but for now, they can be viewed here. The site includes a map of where all the images are from plus a behind-the-scenes look at the selection process and Director’s Choice selections for the three theme categories.
By Hannah F
Senior Art Director