The Duchess of Cambridge offered up a final sneak peek of her photography exhibition, Hold Still, on Saturday night, sharing three images from the 100 chosen by the judging panel.
In a post on the Kensington Palace social media accounts, Kate wrote: “The photography project was focussed on three core themes – Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal and Acts of Kindness” and revealed that there were 31,598 total portraits entered for consideration.
“I particularly felt really strongly that I wanted to try and create a portrait of the nation that sort of captures the fears and the hopes and the feelings of the nation and this really extraordinary time, as a record I suppose for years to come,” the Duchess said in a statement about Hold Still. “I’ve been so overwhelmed by the public’s response.”
Speaking about the calibre of the portraits, Kate said: “The quality of the images has been extraordinary really and the poignancy and the stories behind the images I think have been equally moving, as well.
“So I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has entered and taken part.”
The three portraits shared to the Kensington Palace social media accounts represent the three themes. The first, submitted by Hassan Akkad, a cleaner at a hospital in north London, was of 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.
“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,” Akkad said.
The second portrait was of a church in Bunbury empty except for photographs of the parishioners in the pews and Rev Tim Hayward delivering a sermon to them.
“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 church were a symbol that they and their loved ones were still very much in our thoughts and prayers.”
The third portrait was of a young boy in a garden with his mother. The little boy is relieving himself in the garden while his exasperated mother sits at the table. The boy’s father said he submitted the photo because “we were doing our best, like the rest of the country, with work, childcare and news of daily death tolls.”
The Director of the National Portrait Gallery called the number of total submissions “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,” continued Nicholas Cullinan.
Another judge, Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “These photos offer us a peek into how the general public has felt and dealt with the impact of the virus at a personal level. A very moving insight into the extraordinary stoicism and solidarity that has brought us together as a nation.”
“As I studied the portraits in this most public crisis, I was drawn into the most private moments,” said judge Lemn Sissay, a writer and poet. “We have been in this together and in these portraits of private struggles and victories, the quiet moments, the tears and laughter are caught on camera forever in Hold Still.”
Photographer Maryam Wahid, who also judged the portraits, said: “It has been a phenomenal opportunity to be a judge for Hold Still. A lot of things have happened during the coronavirus lockdown and to see the emotions and experiences of people have been extraordinary.”
The final 100 portraits will be unveiled in a digital exhibition on 14 September; a physical exhibition will be opened and take place in cities across the UK this fall.