The Duchess of Cambridge launches new coffee table book

Omid Scobie
·5-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

She has long been a keen photographer and now the Duchess of Cambridge is bringing her passion for the art to the pages of a new book to raise money for charities.

Alongside the National Portrait Gallery, Kate has announced a coffee table publication of last year’s successful “Hold Still” exhibition, which saw 100 portraits taken by people from across the UK to highlight the different experiences during the country’s first national lockdown, which was a year ago this week.

Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020 will include an introduction written by the duchess, who is patron of the gallery and served on the specialist panel that selected the final images used in the digital exhibition from over 31,000 submissions. “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,” she writes in the book, which is released May 7. “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.”

She continues, “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.”

A new portrait of the duchess taken by the Cambridges' go-to photographer Matt Porteous is also featured in the book, showing Kate wearing a red jumper in the garden of her Anmer Hall home, holding a professional camera. While her own images are not featured in the book, she has regularly shared photographs she has taken of her family for official royal portraits.

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Money raised from sales will benefit a number of different charitable programs, with 50 per cent of net proceeds going towards helping the National Portrait Gallery continue to deliver educational and community programs across Britain. The other half will go towards supporting leading mental health charity Mind, including support initiatives being run in local communities across the country.

The director of The National Portrait Gallery, Dr Nicholas Cullinan, says in a statement shared with Bazaar.com: “The public response to Hold Still, which was spearheaded by our Patron, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, has been phenomenal. The photographs submitted have helped to create a unifying and cathartic portrait of life in lockdown.”

Adds Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind: “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.”

As well as showcasing the 100 images from the exhibition and the stories that accompany each other, the book will also look back at highlights from October 2020’s community exhibition which saw a number of the portraits shared on billboards around the UK.

Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020 can be pre-ordered via the National Portrait Gallery.

Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020 – Introduction by The Duchess of Cambridge

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.

In May 2020 we asked the public to send in photographs which showed their experiences of life in lockdown and we were thrilled by the response. Over 31,000 submissions were received from people of all ages and backgrounds, and all parts of the United Kingdom. One hundred final images were chosen, creating a collective portrait of our nation. From photographs of NHS staff caring for those battling the virus, to families sharing tender moments through closed windows, each of the images gave an insight into what others were going through during this unprecedented time.

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. Although we were physically apart, these images remind us that, as families, communities and a nation we need each other more than we had ever realised.

Thank you to Nicholas Cullinan and our fellow judges for the time they invested in the project, and their thoughtful consideration throughout the judging process. I would also like to extend my gratitude to everyone at the National Portrait Gallery for embracing Hold Still so enthusiastically, and for their dedication and support in helping to bring this project to life. My thanks too to the Co-op, for all that they did in helping to take the final portraits back to the communities and people who created them, through our community exhibition and this book.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to submit an image – your stories are the most crucial part of this project. I hope that the final 100 images showcase the experiences and emotions borne during this extraordinary moment in history, pay tribute to the awe-inspiring efforts of all who have worked to protect those around them, and provide a space for us to pause and reflect upon this unparalleled period.

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