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Hold Still: UK lockdown caught on camera

September 16, 2020 08:24 IST
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After months of anticipation (and 31,000 submissions from the British public), the Duchess of Cambridge’s final selection of images for Hold Still is available to view on the National Portrait Gallery’s website.

Designed to “capture and document the spirit, the mood, the hopes, the fears and the feelings of the nation” during lockdown, the project brings together 100 moving amateur shots of everything from at-home haircuts to make-shift classrooms; exhausted NHS staffers on duty to dedicated postmen in superhero costumes; pensioners FaceTiming with their grandchildren to mothers cradling their newborn babies.


Good luck making it past the first portrait without shedding a few tears.

Below, see 22 remarkable images from Hold Still – then head to the The National Portrait Gallery website for the full exhibition.


My 1-year-old little boy and his 88-year-old great grandma, who miss each other so much at the moment. I captured this beautiful moment between them whilst dropping off groceries. Kisses through glass. Photograph: Steph James/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


During lockdown it was pretty much me and my son, as my partner worked days and days on end. We live in a communal flat block on the very top floor. The front door is almost locking us away from the world, when we went out we felt almost free. Free from being ‘locked' in and free from lots of schoolwork! I’ve felt more anxious than I ever have before. My stress levels rocketed. Home schooling was difficult, but our bond became really strong as we were in this together. Photograph: Zak Waters/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


This picture was originally a piece of work set for our daughter during lockdown. Poppy struggled with her dad having to go to work, as a paramedic throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and she worried about him each time he left to go to work. Poppy loves a cuddle and this happened to be a special moment between them just before my husband left to go on a night shift. Photograph: Ceri A Edwards/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


This photograph, taken on June 20, 2020, captures love and connection during lockdown. It shows my sister-in-law with her grandmother (Dadi in Punjabi) meeting after months of being apart. In this moment I felt the depth of love they feel for each other, captured by both the joy and longing in their eyes. Separated by a window but connected by love. Photograph: Simran Januja/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


This was just before lockdown happened, when I took my son shopping. I happily got a big trolley and was surprised at how easy it was to get a parking space, only to find the Sainsbury's superstore completely empty -- only a few oils, spices and clothes and toys were left. My son Leo had just turned three years old and didn't understand what was happening at the time. Although he did pick up that our shopping trip was very different on this day. As a parent, I probably experienced silent panic and a fear that this type of shopping would be the new normal. I decided to take the picture to remember a unique day that would be the start of a long and challenging time. Photograph: Julie Thiberg/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


We took the decision as a family to isolate Mila at home with myself in the week prior to lockdown. After trying to find an alternative solution we took the difficult decision to isolate in different households to protect Mila, who at this point was only 4 months into her chemotherapy journey for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. As Mila’s dad, Scott, had to continue to work and her big sister Jodi still attend school, we could not risk the possibility of infection being brought home, so they would visit every day at the window. At first Mila did not understand why Scott could not come inside, and would ask him ‘why can’t you come in Daddy?’ This photograph was taken on the first day of separation. After seven weeks of temporary separation and after being furloughed from his job, Scott was reunited with Mila. Looking back, I’m so proud of my daughter and how far she has come, the level of resilience Mila has shown during this unprecedented time is truly remarkable. Photograph: Lynda Sneddon/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


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 gather physically, their photos in church were a symbol that they and their loved ones were still very much in our thoughts and prayers. Photograph: Reverend Tim Hayward and Beth Hayward/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


This is what broken looks like. This is operating for 3 hours in full PPE. This is dehydration. This is masks that make your ears bleed because the straps have slipped and you daren't touch them. This is fighting an invisible enemy that becomes more visible each day. This is a face I never thought I'd show the world, but one which I wear more and more. I took this photo to have as a reminder of how far I’d been capable of pushing myself when I needed to. I sent it to my family to tell them what a hard day it had been and they were all so shocked by it. The person they know as being so well put together, always wearing a smile, was not the person they saw that day. Looking back on it now, I feel immensely proud of the commitment shown by myself and my colleagues to provide safe care for patients, even in the depths of a pandemic. We still wear full PPE for all of our cases, and you never get used to it, but I know we’ll keep doing it for as long as it is needed. Photograph: Ceri Hayles/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


This is my darling Nan, my ray of shining light. She raised me to be strong and kind. I took this portrait when I wasn’t allowed in the house. Her smile was still as bright even though I hadn’t been able to cuddle her for months. Photograph: Jessica Sommerville/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


This is the moment that our third baby boy came into the world, in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by medical staff in full PPE, and the first thing he did was try to give his mummy a kiss through the protective screening and Mummy's mask. This beautiful moment was captured by Daddy, Leigh, and it was love at first sight for all of us and we have been besotted ever since. Despite everything going on in the world, children and babies in particular have a way of keeping us grounded and focused (most of the time!) and we are so proud to have brought a new life into the world during the height of this pandemic. Photograph: Ali Harris and Leigh Harris/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


We had to cancel our wedding because it was obvious it would have been impossible for it to have gone ahead. It didn't feel right, though, to not enjoy the day when it came around. So we dressed up with our children and celebrated together. It was a fun and memorable day and it kept a positive spin on what could have been viewed as a depressing situation. Photograph: Donna Duke Llande/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


This is a studio portrait of Tendai, a recovery and anaesthetics nurse, who was born in Zimbabwe, and now lives in my local town -- Reading, Berkshire. I wanted to portray her caring side as well as a look of concern and uncertainty that many of us have experienced during this pandemic. It’s why I chose a lower than normal angle and asked her to look off camera, placing her half way down in the frame. Photograph: Neil Palmer/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


Justin didn't know about my project when I turned up at his window with a camera. I just so happened to be across the road, capturing his daughter Safi and her family, who had volunteered to be a part of my 'Outside In' project, which documents my community living life in lockdown, through the window. Safi asked if I wouldn't mind popping over to capture a frame or two of her father and I am very grateful that I did. It was wonderful meeting this brilliant man albeit through the window. We spoke about this project, his art collection and how he manages to keep his plants so well. We talked about how surreal everything is right now, how the weeks have been for him isolating alone and his plans to jet off to France as soon as this madness is over. He finished up by telling me he had a spot of hay fever... A session that wasn't meant to happen, happens to be one of my favourites. Photograph: Sara Lincoln/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


The children of keyworkers at Sheringham Primary School, Norfolk created this huge rainbow for the NHS on their playground. Some of the children's parents are nurses who have been working on the Covid ward at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital. Photograph: Chris Taylor/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


Trying to work and home-school when you have a 3-year-old and an 11-year-old is an exercise in tuning out the noise. One might say -- ‘Let it go…' Taken in our home, at the multitasking table. Photograph: Ania Wilk-Lawton/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


The Stockport Spider Men was started by friends Jason Baird and Andrew Baldock who both took to the streets of Stockport right at the start of lockdown dressed as Spider Man to use their daily exercise time to keep the children smiling. This then turned in to a national phenomenon with over fifty other members of the general public joining dressed as various other characters. On top of visiting the community to bring 'social distancing smiles’, as Jason called it, Jason also set up a Justgiving fund for the NHS Charities Together and in the four months of lockdown raised over £60,000 for the real superheroes, our wonderful NHS. Photograph: Jason Baird/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


Hanna and her nurse heading to theatre for a procedure during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this uncertain time, I felt it was important to document this shared experience and capture a moment which highlights care, compassion and positivity. Photograph: Lisa Miller/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


This was taken as I was visiting Joe and Duke’s mother to collect the handmade masks she'd made for me and my husband (who I am shielding due to his being particularly vulnerable to the virus). They are identical twins and the sons of one of my dearest friends – I’ve known them since they were very young. Duke has assisted me on shoots and wants to work in either the music industry or possibly in film or photography. Joe has always wanted to be a make-up artist and hairdresser (he already assists on large shoots and works in a salon ). I'm incredibly proud to call them my friends too. Those visits, at first through a window, and now masked and cautious sitting on their balcony, have been a godsend during this isolated period. It's always a joy to see them. Yet here I could feel the ennui and frustration of two young men who suddenly found themselves entirely housebound and trapped just as their lives were about to open up in the most exciting of ways with their 18th birthdays and their first adult summer. Photograph: Sarah Lee/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


This was a hard day, not being able to see my family and it was my first time out due to shielding because of bowel disease. We had been in since March (my children had been taken out by their dad) but what an amazing day I had, and this picture taken by my talented friend Kate, captured my birthday with my amazing children...Thank you for choosing me to be a finalist, I actually can’t believe it. Photograph: Kate Sargent and Rachel Scarfe/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


Our little girl, Amelia, has Down’s Syndrome and raises a lot of positive awareness on social media under Amelia May Changing Attitudes. On the 12 May 2020 I (mummy) made Amelia a very simple nurses outfit and then took the picture in our kitchen to celebrate International Nurses Day. Amelia's aunty and cousin (mother and daughter) are both amazing nurses and Amelia has seen a lot of nurses in her short life. Therefore we wanted to put a special post on her social media accounts recognising International Nurses Day and thanking all of the nurses for the amazing work they do every day and especially during the Covid-19 pandemic (throughout which Amelia has been shielding). Photograph: Wendy Huson/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


This is a photo of Jen, and her little girl, Florence. Jen worked through the pandemic, and Florence absolutely loves dressing up like her mum. Jen has described this photo as being one of her most treasured items because it represents a lovely moment in what was a pretty tough time emotionally and mentally. It’s clear from this photo how much they love each other, and really are one team. Photograph: Matt Utton and Jennifer O'Sullivan/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery


Having been separated from her grandkids for three months I made my mum a ‘cuddle blanket' so she could get that all-needed hug. Photograph: Lesley Garven/Kensington Palace/National Portrait Gallery
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