Duchess of Cambridge says COVID-19 showed 'we need each other more than we had ever realised'

·Royal Correspondent
·4-min read
The Duchess of Cambridge has launched a photobook for the project. (Matt Porteous)
The Duchess of Cambridge has launched a photobook for the project. (Matt Porteous)

The Duchess of Cambridge has written a poignant reflection on the last year as she launches a photo book to remember the experience of the living during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kate, 39, announced her Hold Still project, in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery, in May 2020, encouraging people to document their experiences whether on the frontline of the response to COVID-19 or adapting to staying at home.

She and other judges whittled down thousands of entries into a collection of 100 which were then displayed in a virtual gallery and around the country.

Now she has announced a photo book of the images, which will go on sale on 7 May, a year to the day since the project launch, with proceeds going to the National Portrait Gallery and Mind, the mental health charity.

The Duchess of Cambridge said the last year made people realise how much they need each other. (Matt Porteous)
The Duchess of Cambridge said the last year made people realise how much they need each other. (Matt Porteous)
The front cover of the Hold Still book. (The National Portrait Gallery)
The front cover of the Hold Still book. (The National Portrait Gallery)
The inside of the book - the images are displayed with their story. (The National Portrait Gallery)
The inside of the book - the images are displayed with their story. (The National Portrait Gallery)

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In the introduction to the book, the duchess wrote: "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."

She added: "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."

The duchess is a keen photographer herself, and shares pictures of her children and husband, Prince William, on their birthdays.

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The book will include the final 100 images and the stories behind them, as well as highlights of the community exhibition, which meant the pictures were displayed on billboards and at bus stops up and down the UK. 

More than 31,000 images were submitted from people of all ages and all professions, showing how life had changed since the national stay at home order. 

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, director of The National Portrait Gallery said: "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. We are honoured to have been able to share a selection of these photographs with the nation, first through the online and community exhibition and now through this new publication. 

"Hold Still is an important record of this extraordinary moment in our history – expressed through the faces of the nation – and we hope will remain so for generations to come."

There were more than 31,000 images and the judges whittled it down to 100. (The National Portrait Gallery)
There were more than 31,000 images and the judges whittled it down to 100. (The National Portrait Gallery)
The book also shows the rollout of the exhibition, which saw pictures being put on billboards around the country. (The National Portrait Gallery)
The book also shows the rollout of the exhibition, which saw pictures being put on billboards around the country. (The National Portrait Gallery)

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He said the money raised would help the gallery care for the collection and continue to provide free access. 

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, 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."

Farmer also thanked the gallery and the duchess for choosing them to receive some of the proceeds and those who submitted photographs. 

To pre-order a copy of the book, visit the National Portrait Gallery’s website.

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