This image of my Grandad, dutifully wearing his mask, eyes twinkling, was captured as part of a lockdown photography project. As he posed for the camera, little did I realise that it would later become part of the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition: Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation.
Spearheaded by Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, Hold Still invited people from across the UK to submit a photographic portrait which they had taken during lockdown. From over 31,000 submissions, a selection panel, including The Duchess, the Gallery’s Director Nicholas Cullinan, author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, Chief Nursing Officer for England Ruth May, and award-winning photographer Maryam Wahid, chose 100 images for the exhibition. I even got a letter from the Queen!
The exhibition was first unveiled in digital format on the National Portrait Gallery website. Within the first three days, it received a record-breaking 250,000 website visits. Hold Still then launched as a nationwide community exhibition, and the 100 portraits were displayed for four weeks on 400 outdoor posters at 112 locations and 80 towns and cities across the UK. They could be seen on high streets, buildings, bus stops, billboards and train stations. Hold Still has also been published as a Sunday Times Bestseller big hardback book.
My photograph In Family We Trust is of my Grandad on the doorstep of my parents’ house wearing a mask. He loved having his photograph taken so when I asked him if I could take some of him, he accepted without hesitation. Here is the blurb that I submitted along with the photograph:
My 86-year old Grandad is a survivor of the Hungarian Uprising and took asylum in the UK in 1956. Even though he's lived here for all these years, English is not his first language, and the information in the media about Coronavirus does not always translate. It is up to us, his family, to disseminate this news into advice he can understand. It is us he turns to for information on keeping safe and we value this sense of responsibility to care for him. We are the ones to explain that we can't hug him and that he has to wear a mask, and he can't have his hair cut. In us, he trusts.
At the time I took this photograph of my Grandad, he was, along with everyone else, blissfully unaware that he had cancer. He got diagnosed a few weeks afterwards and now my relationship with this photograph has changed; it has become more treasured. I’m even more overjoyed that he’s made it into this amazing project.
When I first found out my photo was part of the exhibition, I was hoping my grandad would be able to come to the gallery with us and see it for himself too, but he sadly passed away in October 2022. I'm so proud to have created this lasting legacy for him.
The National Portrait Gallery reopened its doors in June 2023 after 3 years of being closed for refurbishment, and Hold Still opened with it. The gallery organised a special event for all the photographers involved and their guests, where we could all meet each other, talk about our photos, sign each other's books, see the exhibition and have a huge group photo.
You can go and see the exhibition until 6th August 2023.
In Family We Trust is part of a Covid-themed photo series I made to document a time that will go down in history.
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