New publication captures a portrait of the nation during the first national lockdown

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New publication captures a portrait of the nation during the first national lockdown
Hold Still inside pages.

LONDON.- The National Portrait Gallery is to publish Hold Still, a new book of photographic portraits from the Hold Still exhibition, on the 7 May 2021, marking one year since HRH The Duchess of Cambridge and the Gallery launched the ambitious community project to create a collective portrait of the UK during lockdown.

Featuring an introduction from The Duchess of Cambridge, the new publication, which is supported by Co-op, will include the one hundred portraits selected for the Hold Still exhibition from 31,598 submissions during the project’s six-week entry period. Focussed on three core themes – Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal and Acts of Kindness – the images present a unique record of our shared and individual experiences during this extraordinary period of history, conveying humour and grief, creativity and kindness, tragedy and hope. The net proceeds from the sale of the book will be equally split to support the work of the National Portrait Gallery and Mind, the mental health charity (registered 219830).

The one hundred photographs were selected by a panel of judges including The Duchess of Cambridge; Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery; Lemn Sissay MBE, writer and poet; Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England and Maryam Wahid, photographer. Each of the photographs is accompanied by the story behind the picture told through the words of the entrants themselves, offering a highly personal perspective on this unprecedented time. From virtual birthday parties, handmade rainbows and community clapping, to brave NHS staff, resilient keyworkers and people dealing with illness, isolation and loss.

The final selection of portraits were first unveiled in an online exhibition in September 2020, which has had over 5.8 million page views to date. The images were also exhibited on hundreds of billboard and poster sites in towns and cities across the UK in October last year, as part of a unique community exhibition, which came to life with the support of the Co-op. One of the portraits ‘Melanie, March 2020’, taken by Johannah Churchill, was recreated as a hand-painted mural in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Photographs of the nationwide exhibition will feature in the Hold Still publication. As will, a piece of poetic prose by judge Lemn Sissay, reflecting on the entries and the judging experience.

The hardback book will be available on the National Portrait Gallery online shop and in bookstores across the UK from the 7 May 2021, priced at £24.95. The publication was designed and art directed by North Design.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery said: “Since its founding in 1856, the National Portrait Gallery has existed to record British history through portraiture. In 2020 it became even more important for the Gallery to find new ways to document and share our individual and collective stories, as the coronavirus pandemic impacted everybody’s lives in a multitude of ways.

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. The proceeds raised from the book will help us to continue to care for and share our national Collection and to provide free access, inspiration and learning, through the work we do at the Gallery and our UK wide community and education projects.

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.”

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