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The Duchess of Cambridge has written a foreword for a new collection of pictures that captured the U.K. during the COVID pandemic

By Simon Perry
March 27, 2021 08:00 PM
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Kate Middleton, Hold Still book
Kate Middleton
| Credit: Matt Porteous

Kate Middleton is getting into publishing!

The Duchess of Cambridge, 39, announced the publication of a new book of her treasured photo project that helped capture the life of Britain as it underwent lockdown and faced the coronavirus pandemic.

Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020 will bring together the final 100 Hold Still portraits, as well as the stories that go along with the moving images. 

"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," Kate wrote in the book's foreword, explaining why the project has been so important to her. "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 continued. "I hope that the final 100 images showcase the experiences and emotions borne during this extraordinary moment in history, pay tribute to the awe-inspiring efforts of all who have worked to protect those around them, and provide a space for us to pause and reflect upon this unparalleled period."

Hold Still book
Cover of Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020
| Credit: National Portrait Gallery

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Hold Still Book
Back cover of Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020
| Credit: National Portrait Gallery

Additionally, the book will include highlights from the photography exhibition, with some of the photos being exhibited on boards in public spaces in the U.K.

The new book will be available online and in U.K. bookshops starting May 7 — exactly one year after the photography project was first launched. Net proceeds will be split between mental health charity Mind, which Kate and husband Prince William have long supported, as well as the National Portrait Gallery.  

"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," Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of The National Portrait Gallery, said in a statement. 

"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," added Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind. "Thank you to everyone who submitted a portrait to tell such a moving and deeply human story of the pandemic."

Kate's Hold Still photography initiative began in May 2020 and culminated in an online exhibition of some of the best images.

Photos of hospital staffers tackling the most challenging experiences of their working lives, families coping with homeschooling and people visiting relatives in care homes or communicating through windows with loved ones were among the images.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to Newham ambulance station
Prince William and Kate Middleton with first responders last week
| Credit: PA Images

In October, she took her husband Prince William to see some of the images that were put up on huge advertising board around London. The royal parents toured two sites in a surprise outing to showcase her lockdown photo project. In Waterloo, they met Sami Massalami Mohammed Elmassalami Ayad, a volunteer at a community Food Hub in Hackney who is the subject of a portrait — titled "Sami" by Grey Hutton — displayed at the site.

In another public display, one of the images from the exhibit, which was run along with the National Portrait Gallery, was made into a giant mural in Manchester. The mural shows frontline worker Melanie in full medical gear, including a face mask, glasses, gloves and scrubs as she looks into the camera. A colleague, Johannah Churchill, took the photo last March.

Launched by the Duchess of Cambridge in MayHold Still invited people of all ages to send in a portrait that they had taken during lockdown in an effort to capture the story of the people at this unique and challenging time.

"We've all been struck by some of the incredible images we've seen which have given us an insight into the experiences and stories of people across the country," Kate said in a statement at the time. "Some desperately sad images showing the human tragedy of this pandemic and other uplifting pictures showing people coming together to support those more vulnerable."