Duchess of Cambridge praises 'iconic' image of pandemic nurse

·Royal Correspondent
·4-min read

Watch: Duchess of Cambridge views art at Royal London Hospital

The Duchess of Cambridge hailed an image of a nurse working during the coronavirus pandemic as "iconic" as she made two visits to mark the launch of her photograph book.

Kate, 39, visited the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal London Hospital on Friday, the day the Hold Still book was officially released.

Speaking about one image called Melanie, showing a nurse in full PPE, she said: "It’s become really iconic. Some of them had really powerful stories behind them and this one really stood out. It’s about the stories."

Kate launched the Hold Still project one year ago on Friday, as a way to capture the nation during the coronavirus lockdown.

More than 31,000 images were submitted and she and other judges whittled them down to 100 pictures, which have now been made into a book.

Kate said looking at them made her feel as though she had "lived through the experience" with the nation.

The Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, to mark the publication of the Hold Still book. Picture date: Friday May 7, 2021.
Kate during a visit to Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel to mark the publication of the Hold Still book. (PA Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, to mark the publication of the Hold Still book. Picture date: Friday May 7, 2021.
Kate saw examples of art installations at the hospital which help improve patient experience. (PA Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, to mark the publication of the Hold Still book. Picture date: Friday May 7, 2021.
The Duchess of Cambridge wore an Eponine coat during the visit. (PA Images)

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The Duchess also viewed a framed portrait of Melanie, March 2020 by Johannah Churchill, which appears on the front cover of the Hold Still book. 

The portrait, which has been given to The Royal London by Kate and the National Portrait Gallery, will hang in the hospital’s main corridor as a reminder of the work of NHS staff throughout the pandemic. 

Further portraits will be given to locations around the UK for public display over the coming months, Kensington Palace said.

After visiting the hospital, the duchess went to the National Portrait Gallery where she saw the images which will appear in a permanent exhibit there.

She also met Lotti Sofia, Niaz Maleknia and Claudia Burton, whose photographs made it into the 100 shortlisted, and are in the book. 

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (C) is shown artwork on display by Catsou Roberts (L), director of Arts and Health, Vital Arts, during a visit to Royal London Hospital Whitechapel in east London, on May 7, 2021, to meet staff and hear how the hospital uses art to benefit patients and staff. (Photo by Arthur EDWARDS / various sources / AFP) (Photo by ARTHUR EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images)
Kate looks at artwork on display by Catsou Roberts (L), director of Arts and Health, Vital Arts, at the Royal London Hospital Whitechapel (Arthur Edwards/AFP)
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge looks at art on display during a visit to Royal London Hospital Whitechapel in east London, on May 7, 2021, to meet staff and hear how the hospital uses art to benefit patients and staff. (Photo by Arthur EDWARDS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ARTHUR EDWARDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Kate next to the portrait Melanie, which she called iconic. (Arthur Edwards/AFP)
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge gestures on arrival for a visit to meet staff and hear how the hospital uses art to benefit patients and staff, at Royal London Hospital Whitechapel in east London, on May 7 2021. (Photo by Arthur EDWARDS / various sources / AFP) (Photo by ARTHUR EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images)
Kate with a DeMiller handbag at the hospital in London. (Arthur Edwards/AFP)

Read more: Duchess of Cambridge hides free copies of her 'Hold Still' book around the UK

She said: "You would look at the image, then you would read the caption underneath… you felt like you had lived through the experience. That’s the power of photography."

Speaking to the finalists, she said: "These are personal moments you have captured, and it’s a great thing to share them with the world."

Kate chatted again about the judging process for her project, saying: "I’ve got memories of all these thumbnails across my dining room table and I was like, please can we have a few more than 100.

"It’s about the stories. It’s about more than art."

Earlier on Friday the duchess revealed she had hidden a number of copies of the book for people to find and take for free, as part of a collaboration with the Book Fairies.

As well as the duchess, some of the Hold Still judges, photographers and Book Fairies themselves, are hiding a total of 150 books around the country for people to happen upon.

Those who find the book are encouraged to leave them for someone else once they have read it.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge talks to 'Hold Still' entrants Naz Maleknia (centre) and Claudia Burton (right) during a visit to the archive in the National Portrait Gallery in central London to mark the publication of the 'Hold Still' book on May 7, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge talking to 'Hold Still' entrants Naz Maleknia (centre) and Claudia Burton (right) during a visit to the archive in the National Portrait Gallery. (Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge views a photo of Captain Tom Moore alongside Curator Magda Keaney during a visit to the archive in the National Portrait Gallery in central London to mark the publication of the 'Hold Still' book on May 7, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Kate looking at a photo of Captain Tom Moore alongside Curator Magda Keaney during a visit to the archive in the National Portrait Gallery. (Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

A letter is included inside the book, from the duchess, which reads: "Dear finder,

"The Hold Still book documents a photography project which captured a portrait of our nation as we lived through the first COVID-19 lockdown last year. The images tell the stories of the challenges we faced but also how we came together in the most extraordinary of times."

It goes on to describe Kate's pride in working with the gallery, and then says: "Once you have finished looking through the book, please leave it somewhere else in your community for the next person to enjoy."

It's signed "with my very best wishes, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge".

Proceeds from the book go toward the National Portrait Gallery and Mind, the mental health charity.

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