Duchess Kate Salutes the Nation in Video Thanking COVID-19 Photography Contributors

Kensington Palace has shared a new video of the Duchess of Cambridge thanking the public for their participation in the Hold Still photography project as the U.K.-wide exhibition comes to an end. More than 31,000 portraits—powerful images of frontline workers and healthcare and medical staff, as well as poignant images representing both the hope and tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic—were submitted. The exhibition has been a tremendous success, with more than five million views on the National Portrait Gallery’s website.

“It has been fantastic to see these portraits on billboards and outdoor poster sites across the country as part of our community exhibition,” Kate says in the video message. “For me, the most powerful part of the project is that it has shown just how much people and communities have come together and how important we all are to each other. Thank you so much for being part of Hold Still and for sharing your stories with the nation.”

In May, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge launched the project in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery (for which she serves as Royal Patron), encouraging people across the country to submit photos that captured the experiences of life in lockdown. When the finalists were selected in September, Kensington Palace wrote on its Instagram account, “The images present a unique record of our shared and individual experiences during this extraordinary period of history, conveying humour and grief, creativity and kindness, tragedy and hope.”

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One hundred images were selected by a panel and displayed across the country on billboards, outdoor posters, and across 80 different villages and cities to show the effect of the lockdown, bringing the poignant stories of individuals and families back to their communities.

Last month, William and Kate visited Waterloo to view the exhibition before speaking to frontline workers.

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In September, Her Majesty the Queen expressed her own support for all those submitting an image, writing in a statement, “The Duchess of Cambridge and I were inspired to see how the photographs have captured the resilience of the British people at such a challenging time, whether that is through celebrating frontline workers, recognizing community spirit or showing the efforts of individuals supporting those in need.”

Kate, who is an accomplished photographer herself, has shot many notable portraits of her children throughout the years, and the Cambridges have shared them with the public on birthdays and other family occasions. She’s also encouraged her children to salute and support frontline workers in the Clap for Carers campaign and delivered homemade pasta to homebound elderly living near the couple’s Anmer Hall home during the pandemic.

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The ambitious photography project has been a passion project of sorts for the duchess and took on its own personal significance, as the disease doesn’t discriminate and touches people from all walks of life. Says Kate, “It was so hard to select the final 100 photographs, but we hope we have created a collective portrait of our nation, reflecting on what others have experienced as well as our own journeys through this difficult time.”

Prince William caught the virus in April and battled COVID-19 privately at home as to not alarm the public. The Duchess of Cambridge and her children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, fortunately did not catch the disease. Prince Charles also had the illness and isolated until he recovered.

Carolyn is a Royal contributor for ELLE.com and OprahMag.com who has covered the royal family for the last 15 years.

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