I never thought my first piece of work published in a book would be in one by the iconic National Portrait Gallery, but here it is... the Hold Still book, launched on 7th May, and available for purchase at Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon, and more.
Spearheaded by The Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of the National Portrait Gallery, Hold Still was an ambitious community project to create a unique collective portrait of the UK during the lockdown. People of all ages were invited to submit a photographic portrait, taken in a six-week period during May and June 2020, focusing on three core themes – Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal, and Acts of Kindness. From these, a panel of judges selected 100 portraits, assessing the images on the emotions and experiences they conveyed.
Featured here in this publication, the final 100 images present a unique and highly personal record of this extraordinary period in our history of people of all ages from across the nation. From virtual birthday parties, handmade rainbows, and community clapping to brave NHS staff, resilient keyworkers, and people dealing with illness, isolation, and loss. The images convey humour and grief, creativity and kindness, tragedy and hope – expressing and exploring both our shared and individual experiences. Presenting a true portrait of our nation in 2020, this publication includes a foreword by The Duchess of Cambridge, each image is accompanied by the story behind the picture told through the words of the entrants, and further works show the nationwide outdoor exhibition of Hold Still.
My photograph In Family We Trust is of my Grandad on the doorstep of my parents’ house wearing a mask. He loves 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 is underneath 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. A few weeks after taking this photograph, my grandad was diagnosed with cancer, which changes my outlook on the image now that I look back at it. He had it then but didn’t know and neither did I. I’m overjoyed that he’s made it into this project.
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. The most exciting news is that, when the building reopens, the portraits will become a permanent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery!
I joined the The Book Fairies and placed a copy of the book by the entrance to a park that has been such a dream for me during the lockdowns; Crystal Palace Park. Whoever finds it will discover beautiful images from all around the UK that reflect the experience of lockdown across many communities. I hope they will enjoy it and hide it for someone else to find.