Hold Still Director's choice

Director's choice

People from across the UK were asked to submit photographs they felt had greatest resonance for them in recording their world and the world around them during the pandemic. Three key themes brought together bravery, kindness and a sense of finding new routines for daily life when the old ones were no longer feasible. Here the Gallery’s Director, Nicholas Cullinan, who was a member of the Hold Still judging panel selects his personal highlights from each theme.

Acts of Kindness

During lockdown many people who were unable to leave their homes turned to neighbours to help with buying essential food, medicines and household supplies. Where neighbours could not help, an essential network of volunteers emerged to help the vulnerable. Others understood that families with children under lockdown were often looking for something to brighten their days, and found ways to make much-appreciated connections through shut windows and locked doors. Finding ways to support charities inspired many to set personal challenges to raise money and offer support to those working on the frontline.

PPE volunteer
By Joe Newman
Location: London

'This is such a compelling image of the ingenuity and selflessness displayed by so many over the last few months. The side light coming in from the window is also fantastic – like a Vermeer!'

By Grey Hutton
Location: London

'A fantastic portrait of a completely inspiring person – you really get a sense of his character, kindness and compassion.'

Tony Hudgell's 10k walk for Evelina London
By David Tett
Location: Kent

'Bravo Tony – we salute you! A completely captivating photograph of an extraordinarily brave and resourceful boy, and such a moving and inspiring story. Evelina is also such a wonderful hospital, so this image really resonates with me.'

Last precious moments
By Kris Tantag and Sue Hicks
Location: Chichester, West Sussex

'Like so many of the extraordinary images submitted to Hold Still, this photograph fills me both with joy and sadness at the same time.'

Forever holding hands
By Hayley Evans
Location: Worthing, West Sussex

'This image is so haunting and has really stayed with me ever since I first saw it. So moving and timeless.'

Our New Normal

As the severity of lockdown became a reality, families found they had to adapt to new ways of carrying out tasks in accordance with the restrictions. Gatherings could not take place and so technology was used to try and bridge the gap where people could not meet or gather as friends and family. Key moments in life were marked in ways that were previously unimaginable, while every day routines such as schooling, trips to the hairdresser and exercise needed ingenuity to make them possible.

Funeral heartbreak
By Bonnie Sapsford and Fiona Grant-MacDonald
Location: Cockermouth, Cumbria

'This really brought home what some people have gone through – it's already so hard to lose a loved one, and to not be able to attend their funeral with family must be devastating. And his quiet dignity is extraordinary. It’s an indelible image.'

Eid-Ul-Fitr 2020
By Roshni Haque
Location: Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

'I love the composition of this striking photograph and the way it conveys triumph over adversity and how Covid has made us realise more than ever how important our friends and family are to us.'

By Marcela (aged 17 years)
Location: Dagenham, London

'Teaching children at home isn’t easy (I was home educated and I’m sure my parents would agree!), but this image captures a moment of tenderness and fun beautifully and reflects the way so many parents and children have had to adapt their daily lives together almost overnight.'

The first kiss
By Ali Harris and Leigh Harris
Location: Lincoln

'This photograph beautifully captures a new phenomenon of the last few months – the often strange ways we have had to physically distance ourselves from each other (sometimes even from those closest to us) but at the same time the way our deepest emotions can overcome physical barriers.'

In school: still here
By Students from Maiden Erlegh School, Reading (aged 13-15 years)
Location: Reading

'This grid of portraits was completely unique in all the submissions, is so original and striking and really impressive from students of this age!'

Home hair
By Karni Arieli
Location: Bristol

'We’ve all been there over the last few months and this brilliant photograph sums it up beautifully with humour and extraordinary light to boot!'

Lockdown Life - Paul & Simon
By Rebecca Douglas
Location: Margate, Kent

'Such a striking and singular image from lockdown which evocatively captures the sense of isolation we have all experienced in one way or another.'

Helpers and Heroes

As the pandemic took hold, the bravery and commitment of all healthcare professionals was made evident daily through news bulletins, websites and social media. For the competition entrants, these helpers and heroes were also family members and close colleagues who they saw facing danger every day in order to help others and save lives.

Melanie, March 2020
By Johannah Churchill
Location: London

'A beautiful and somehow timeless portrait of one of the extraordinary people who have been at the forefront of saving lives and to whom we are all indebted.'

Captain Tom Moore
By Terry Harris
Location: Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire

'We couldn’t have chosen the images for Hold Still without a portrait of a total hero and new national treasure!'

By Christopher Cox
Location: Oban, Argyll and Bute

'This is such a striking image of one of the many people who we realise now how much we count on and who would otherwise be unsung heroes.'

This is what broken looks like
By Ceri Hayles
Location: Bridgend

'A harrowing image but also one of such bravery and self-sacrifice.'

One team
By Matt Utton and Jennifer O’Sullivan
Location: Hainault, London

'Such a joyful and heart-warming photograph of admiration and devotion.'

Heart broken
By Kamrul
Location: London

'This is such a moving and evocative image of the grief and loss that so many have sadly experienced. So simple but powerful.'


This project is being supported by international law firm
Taylor Wessing, long-time sponsor of the National Portrait Gallery.

This project is being supported by international law firm
Taylor Wessing, long-time sponsor of the National Portrait Gallery.