The Duchess Pens Introduction for “Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020” Book

Great news for those of us hoping for a book featuring images from the Hold Still photo project: there will be a hardcover available showcasing 100 images.

Many will recall that Hold Still was an initiative the Duchess launched last May with the National Portrait Gallery; she is the gallery’s royal patron.  People were asked to submit photos taken during the UK’s first lockdown; images fit in one of three categories: Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal, and Acts of Kindness.  More than 31,000 images were submitted, and 100 were selected to be part of a digital exhibition.

A hardcover book, Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020, will be available in May. The Duchess has written the book’s introduction.

From the introduction: 

When we look back at the COVID-19 pandemic in decades to come, we will think of the challenges we all faced – the loved ones we lost, the extended isolation from our families and friends and the strain placed on our key workers.  But we will also remember the positives: the incredible acts of kindness, the helpers and heroes who emerged from all walks of life, and how together we adapted to a new normal. 

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.

Above left, “Gimba – The Ward Host‘ by Hassan Akkad; on the right, “Amanda and her Son Terrence,’ shot by Zak Waters.  More from the introduction: 

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.

Above, “Rainbow,” photographed by Helen Pugh of Edinburgh. Below, the full text of the introduction. 

Kensington Palace notes the announcement about the book comes after the UK marked the first anniversary of the first national lockdown earlier this week.  Below, the back cover of the book.  The photo used for the back of the book is “Biba Behind Glass” by Simon Murphy of Glasgow.

In addition to the digital exhibition, the final 100 portraits were displayed across the UK during October and November 2020.  More about the book via a news release:

As well as showcasing the final 100 images and the stories that accompany each of them, the book, which has been put together with support from the Co-op, will look back at highlights from the community exhibition which took the portraits to billboards and outdoor poster sites in 80 towns, cities and areas in October 2020.

 Below, the Duke and Duchess in October looking at one of the posters during the community launch.  The portrait is titled The Look of Lockdown.

The book cover features Melanie, March 2020, taken by Johanna Churchill, a nurse.  The image shows one of Ms. Churchill’s colleagues as she was working on setting up a COVID-19 clinic in London. Below, the Duke and Duchess viewing one of the poster-sized versions of that photo.

The book’s publication date is May 7; it is available for preordering (£24.95) via the Portrait Gallery.

My friend Micki Maynard tells me the total for her book, including shipping to Michigan, was $55.19. 

Poster-sized reproductions of several photos are also offered by the gallery (£15, about $21).

Proceeds from sales will benefit the gallery and Mind, a mental health charity that provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. More from The Evening Standard’s story about the book: 

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer thanked the duchess for supporting the charity, and those who submitted photographs.

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.”

Now for our look at what the Duchess is wearing in the Matt Porteous photo used in the introduction.

It looks like the image was taken the same day Mr. Porteous took the Cambridge family’s Christmas card photo. 

Kate is wearing a sweater that was not identified, and the Sézane Margeurite Blouse first worn during a June 2019 trip to the Lake District.  The shirt is cotton with a ‘pie crust collar’ (ruffled) and distinctive ladder-stitch detailing at the front placket, cuffs, and shoulders.

The Duchess also appears to be wearing her Daniella Draper Mini Cupid Hoop Earrings ($285). 

For those curious about the Duchess’s camera, a gentleman named Justin Clayton reports on Twitter it is a Fujifilm XT-3.

The Duchess has also been photographed with a Canon camera.


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