Spearheaded by The Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of the National Portrait Gallery, Hold Still is an ambitious community project which was launched in May 2020 to create a unique collective portrait of the UK during lockdown. We invited people of all ages to submit a photographic portrait, taken in a six-week period during May and June, focussed on three core themes – Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal and Acts of Kindness. Over 31,000 submissions were received from across the country, with entrants ranging from 4 to 75 years-old. From these, a panel of judges selected 100 portraits, assessing the images on the emotions and experiences they conveyed.
Featured here in this special digital exhibition, the final 100 present a unique and highly personal record of this extraordinary period in our history. 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.
Enter the exhibition and see the photographs collectively (in no particular order) and then discover the fascinating stories behind the pictures through the words of the entrants themselves. You can also view themed highlights chosen by the Gallery’s Director and find out about the selection process with insights from the judges. We hope to show the photographs in cities across the UK later in the year - for the latest updates, follow us on social media and sign up to our e-newsletter. We'd also love to hear your thoughts and your own stories, so please feel free to share them using the #HoldStill2020 hashtag.
Please note this exhibition includes text and images recording people’s recent experiences, which some visitors might find upsetting. If you have been affected by any of the issues reflected in the exhibition, and feel you need support, please click here for some suggested sources of support.
Portrait of a nation
Reflecting the experience of people across the UK
We were overwhelmed by the public’s response to the project and the number and range of extraordinary images we received. The 31,598 entries came from all corners of the UK with the geographic spread stretching from Oban in Argyll, Scotland to Delabole in Cornwall and from Belfast in Northern Ireland to Sheringham in Norfolk. We were also delighted that so many children and young people took part and we received over 650 images from 99 schools. This map shows the areas of the country where the 100 portraits shown in the exhibition were taken.
The selection process
Discover how the 100 final portraits were chosen
A selection panel, including The Duchess of Cambridge, National Portrait Gallery Director Nicholas Cullinan, the author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, the Chief Nursing Officer for England Ruth May, and award-winning photographer Maryam Wahid, met via a video call in July 2020 and undertook the challenging process of selecting 100 portraits for the exhibition. See highlights from the judging session and read insights from the panel about their experience.
Explore special themed highlights
Entrants were invited to submit a photographic portrait, which they had taken during lockdown, focussed on three core themes – Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal and Acts of Kindness. Explore these themes and a selection of works chosen by the Gallery’s Director, and Hold Still judge, Nicholas Cullinan.