Duchess Kate launches a photography competition for portraits in lockdown

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge Visits The National Portrait Gallery Workshop

I’ve been thinking a lot about photography and the quality of video-conferencing during the lockdown. There have already been some startling photos – taken by professional photographers – of American life during lockdown, but I can’t help but think that if there were more photos and high-quality videos of what life is really like during a pandemic, perhaps there wouldn’t be as many crazy-ass anti-lockdown protesters who don’t believe that all of this is REAL. Speaking of, the Duchess of Cambridge has launched a new photography competition in association with her patronage with the National Portrait Gallery. They want submissions of British life in lockdown during a pandemic:

Kate Middleton announced a new photography project on Thursday that asks people to send in photos that capture the spirit, the mood, the hopes, the fears and the feelings across the U.K. amid the coronavirus crisis. In collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, the royal mom of three is inviting people from all over the U.K. to submit a photographic portrait that they have taken during these extraordinary times. Participants are also encouraged to provide a short written submission to outline the experiences and emotions of those depicted in their photograph.

The most poignant portraits will be selected for an exhibit called, “Hold Still,” which will be shown in a virtual exhibition in early summer.

“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 says in a statement. “Some desperately sad images showing the human tragedy of this pandemic and other uplifting pictures showing people coming together to support those more vulnerable. ‘Hold Still’ aims to capture a portrait of the nation, the spirit of the nation, what everyone is going through at this time. Photographs reflecting resilience, bravery, kindness – all those things that people are experiencing.”

The project will focus on three core themes: Helpers and Heroes; Your New Normal; and Acts of Kindness. Kate, who is patron of the National Portrait Gallery, will take part in the curation of the exhibition, which she and the National Portrait Gallery hope to be able to show around the U.K. when the time and circumstances allow. Completely free and open to all ages and abilities, the images can be captured on phones or cameras and each image will be assessed on the emotion and experience it conveys rather than its photographic quality or technical expertise.

The collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery came from discussions between Kate and the museum. “It is something she is really driving,” a royal source says. “It focuses on the human story of lockdown and their experiences. It hopes to capture a moment in time.”

[From People]

It’s a good project? And of course Kate is getting credit for being the “driving force” or whatever, like she’s the only person in the world who thought “we should do portraits in lockdown,” like every single magazine editor across the Western world hasn’t had the same idea. And this goes to what I was saying before: the more this catastrophe is shown for everyone to see, in all of the vulnerability and fear, the more “real” it will be for people. I think most of these “call me a Grandma Killer” a–holes simply don’t think any of this is REAL. Or they’re “bored” with it and so they want to move on.

Catherine Duchess of Cambridge attends a National Portrait Gallery workshop at the Evelina Children's Hospital

Photos courtesy of Backgrid.

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71 Responses to “Duchess Kate launches a photography competition for portraits in lockdown”

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  1. Aurora says:

    The Royal Foundation is going to be bankrupt. While some of their projects are well-meaning none are revenue-generating. By contrast Meghan and Harry’s projects like Invictus, grenfell cookbook And Smartworks manage to combine philanthropy and commerce in a way that generates revenue and makes their patronages self-sufficient.

    • Molly says:

      I wonder if the over-the-top announcement for Earthshot was about attracting money for the Foundation rather than just the prizes. They need to have the Foundation seen as something viable and Kate’s survey and William being photographed with footballers doesn’t cut it.

      William’s probably relieved that he doesn’t have a deadline for Earthshot anymore but can continue to privately solicit funds for it.

    • Ainsley7 says:

      Will and Kate’s foundation is funded mainly by Charles. So, it isn’t going to go bankrupt. Their patronages are all independently run. So, they wouldn’t be hurt by the foundation going under anyway. I personally think that Will and Kate should just drop their foundation and raise money for their patronages directly anyway.

      Meghan’s projects have been really good. The cook book especially brought a lot of money into the foundation. She’s the only one with the skills to make a foundation work long term. Harry is excellent with ideas. He just needs help in funding those ideas. Invictus has struggled a lot financially. It has yet to become self sustaining.

  2. laulau says:

    This is cool. I think these tasks are great for kids. Taskmaster (the best show on youtube) is doing daily challenges that have spawned some incredible creativity.

  3. Becks1 says:

    This is a good idea and completely appropriate for her in her role as patron.

    • Islandgirl says:

      Agree….well done Kate!

    • Snappyfish says:

      I work in the world of Art & photography is a nice medium in these trying times. I think it’s a fun idea. Good for Kate. We have done a similar little “project” w/friends & family during social distancing so we all get to see each other.

      I also like her suit.

    • tempest prognosticator says:

      I agree. This is a good thing.

    • Heather says:

      I agree.
      It is fitting for her patronage, and a cool “project” for people in quarantine.

  4. Taylor says:

    … is it a good project? I like the spin, but my first thought was, who is this actually helping? It’s probably because I’m not artistically inclined or whatever. Maybe photographs really do help people understand things.. Or maybe I would think it was a cool project to launch after thousands of people a day were dying.

    • emmy says:

      Art doesn’t have to have a direct effect to be important. Photography can be incredibly powerful to capture complex issues and make them accessible to everyone, no matter the lanuage. Have you seen this year’s World Press Photo? Incredible, I stared at it for a long time. Their entire archive is a treasure, I highly recommend it. And I’m not really an art person myself. :-)

      This is a great thing and fits.

      • Taylor says:

        I believe you! It just does nothing for me, personally. Though I do believe in the power of music.

      • emmy says:

        Everyone has their thing, I completely understand that. Modern art is not something I enjoy or understand at all.

    • Coz' says:

      Art and culture are actually what helps people during trying times: books, music, movies, tvshows, photography…

      • ravynrobyn says:

        @ COZ-”LES MISERABLES” soundtrack is my every day living Bible. It has gotten me through SO MUCH I can’t even begin to explain. Doesn’t matter what my mood is, nor what the song is…after a few notes I am restored.

        Wish I had a way to download Parks & Rec’s latest version of “Lil Sebastian” as it has the same effect.

        In fact, when I ‘don’t wanna or don’t feel like’ listening, that’s when I know I’m in trouble!

        Happy Friday CBs! We’re all doing the best that we can in any given moment. AND the present moment is all we really have 🌈

    • ArtHistorian says:

      I think it is a good project. It is almost certainly conceived and developed by the National Portrait Gallery. It is not unusual to have portrait and photo competitions developed by museums. Kate is most likely used to launch the initiative and to help it get attention. She puts her name to it as patron, which gets attention and she gets good PR. That’s how it works.

      • Becks1 says:

        Yes, no way was this was Kate’s idea. And that’s okay. This (bringing attention to a project like this) is part of her role as patron. So its good that she’s doing “something” for one of her patronages.

        Having a gallery like this of photographs during this time is a really good idea IMO. Art is subjective and this may mean more to some people than others, but that’s okay.

    • Tessa says:

      I think it is just more PR for her. And it’s not all that good.

      • ArtHistorian says:

        Museums are really hurting right now – so any project that puts museum on the map and generates public interest is a good thing. I don’t care if Kate gets some good, undeserved PR. As long as the project helps the museum, I’m good.

        The entire cultural sector is hurting badly. It is a sector that is continually underfunded because the arts in general are undervalued. Rn many museums are coming up with interesting digital solutions to keep public interest in a time when they can’t have guests. But they are loosing revenue they can’t afford to loose. Rn Statens Museum for Kunst (the National Gallery) in Denmark is used as a temporary kindergarden.

      • emmy says:

        That’s her job. To generate interest so that her patronages can benefit. Without PR for her, there’s no PR for the National Portrait Gallery. This is really not a thing to criticise her for, it’s quite literatlly her job.

    • Eleonor says:

      I am an amateur photographer, and me and my friends with the same passion are shooting like never before.
      You are doing something you love, you are busy an it keeps your mental health in the right place.

    • Noodle says:

      Storytelling is an important part of cultural transmission. It’s how heritage and even religion were passed along before written language and widespread literacy. We are fortunate to live in an age where our storytelling can take many forms, photography being one of them. Given its nearly universal impact and disruptive nature, this pandemic will form the basis of our stories for a very long time. And what’s cool is that these stories by everyone, will be accessible to everyone. I look forward to hearing and seeing others’ stories and experiencing the pandemic through their point of view.

      • ArtHistorian says:

        Audience participation is a big thing in museology these days. A lot of museum have started to use modern technology to engage the audience actively – both as a learning tool but also as a way to foster and keep public interest. There’s a lot of competition in the cultural sphere various forms of mass entertainment. Museums compete with cinemas, video games, etc.

    • Nic919 says:

      The idea is fine but it only reaches the portion of people who aren’t struggling financially with this pandemic. This project should be something in addition to providing significant assistance to those who need it. So far helping the less fortunate has been lacking in terms of what KP has been doing. If they are going to lead, it can’t just be cute projects but also real assistance to those who don’t have time, financial resources or the health to take photographs.

    • Andrew’s Nemesis says:

      Do you remember the horrifying picture of the naked child running from her burning village in Vietnam? The VE day image of the soldier kissing the nurse? The photograph of JFK in his opentop car just before he was assassinated?
      Humans see up to 33 billion images and 3 billion faces in their lifetime. Before photography, humans sought to capture their worlds through art. Some of the world’s oldest art is hidden in caves, miles underground, traversed in the dark: thousands of handprints extending out in a great wheel, and the creatures that made up the landscape of their minds. Imagery is the way we make associations with culture, history, seismic events, time itself and our relation to it. It gives us a locus around which we forge our representation of the world. It is not a matter of being artistic, or not; it is a matter of humans being.

  5. Snazzy says:

    This is a very nice idea.
    Also, please ALWAYS use that photo where the little girl is giving Princess Keen the LOOK

  6. Molly says:

    It’s a good project. The National Gallery is handling the details so it will be done well. Kate brought attention to it because of her title. All as it should be.

    • Tessa says:

      The National Gallery is doing the work and she gets the credit. This is like those gardens where others did the actual planning.

      • ArtHistorian says:

        That is how a standard royal patronage works. The institution does the work and the royal is there to generate interest. The Kensington IG doesn’t claim that she’s the one who came up and organized with the project.

      • DarlingDiana says:

        This is like Meghan taking time to read a story to baby Archie for savethechildren. She didn’t create the cause and isn’t claiming to have but she gave it massive attention. As Art Historian said above Kate hasn’t made false claims either. Both of these women are doing very good work with these particular things.

      • Molly says:

        This is traditional royal work. This is partly what Anne was talking about when she said to not reinvent the wheel.

  7. Sofia says:

    This is a good idea and I’m glad it’s being launched. This is the type of thing the Cambridges should focus more on – actually doing something instead of a bunch of articles on how they’re “planning” on doing something

  8. Lizzie says:

    It’s a good project? Yes, good. Not great or original but fine.

  9. Aang says:

    I love photography. Sadly I’m not artistic so I’m not even an amateur photographer. But it’s my preferred visual art to look at. It can be so powerful and really get to the heart of a situation. This is a good project.

  10. OriginalLala says:

    Museums in Canada are doing the same kind of project (the McCord Museum launched it weeks ago), it’s a cool idea and I think it’s important to have vernacular documentation of this time.

    • Erinn says:

      I like that aspect of it too – that it’s documenting SO much. I know there’s plenty to complain about with Kate, but I think this was a very good choice of project. It’s going to give kids (and adults) something new to try, and it makes a record of everyone’s life right now, so that’ll be super interesting to look back on later.

      There’s a lot of people who give flack for it not being original, but who cares. None of the things ANY of the royals do are super original in the scheme of things, but I think that’s fine for the most part.

  11. CidyKitty(CidySmiley) says:

    This is a good project for her and a good thing for her to do with her patronage so no salt here. Good job.

  12. ABritGuest says:

    I love the National portrait gallery and I think there will be interesting images. And yes this is their initiative& Kate bringing the initiative attention in line with her role as patron

  13. Osty says:

    She really needs to loose that fake accent cos it makes it difficult to hear what she says . She always sounds gibberish trying to sound posh and pple have the nerve to call Meghan fake. We have a whole person who has changed her personality to marry a man she chased for decade and that is ok but the one who said she will work for her money is the devil. Also where is the cry for timing at this sad launch?

    • Melissa says:

      The project is a direct reflection of current affairs, I’m not sure what you mean by the timing ?

    • M.A.F. says:

      what in the world does her accent, her marriage, her persona have to do with this project? Save all of that for one of the other Kate posts.

  14. DarlingDiana says:

    I like this intiative. Everything about this builds a communal feeling which can be so helpful in these remarkably difficult times. Each photograph sharing a particular story while all of them together create a mosaic of experiences that everyone can be brought closer by sharing. I would be interested in seeing the final exhibit.
    Good fit for Kate too. Well done.

    • Maria says:

      And she’s a great photographer, a good fit for her.

      • DarlingDiana says:

        Plus she is passionate about photography. That will come through in her work on this. Plus she is offering up something that undoubtedly she has found valuable in her own life to encourage others to give it a try. You don’t need a teacher, a lot of supplies, or money. Grab your phone and get to snappin’! Great way to share herself and encourage others to explore their world.

      • Tessa says:

        I don’t think she’s passionate about photography. This was her spin during the years where she rarely worked even part time that she was a “great” photographer and there would be a special exhibit. LIke other promises made by her there was never any special exhibit. she was too busy working to get the ring. There was a rumor she studied with Testino something he had to deny publicly. She takes photos of her children she is nowhere near a professional or gifted. I hope there are judges who are better qualified to evaluate the photos than Kate or at least can outvote her.

      • Nic919 says:

        She likes photography but she’s not great at it. Let’s stop with the false praise. Her technique leaves a lot to be desired and her subjects are most often her kids who are cute, but that’s not the same thing as saying she’s on the level of Ansel Adams. She’s not and that’s ok.

      • DarlingDiana says:

        @Tessa, I think you’ve made your stance on Kate pretty clear. We just disagree. It’s all good.

        @Nic919, I never said that Kate was particularly talented and certainly not Ansel Adams. You don’t have to be particularly talented to be passionate about something. I think she has enjoyed photography as an outlet and, of course, her children are now her favorite subjects. Typical Mom behavior to me. If she likes painting, she would paint them or if it was music, sing them a song.

        My main point is that Kate is doing her job and this project is a good one and I believe that she is enthusiastic about photography.

      • Nic919 says:

        @DD My comment was not directed to you as you weren’t the one calling her great and ridiculously praising her.

  15. Digital Unicorn says:

    Interesting project – i just hope her involvement is more than her just putting her name to it. As she is supposedly a ‘keen’ amateur photographer I would expect her to get very involved as its something that is interesting to her.

  16. HK9 says:

    I think this is perfect for her. It’s something she’s interested in and I think the results will be interesting. Good on her.

  17. osito says:

    I agree with all the comments highlighting this as a good project for Kate. I was true neutral about the Cambridges (and the rest of the royals) until the Sussexes came on the scene, and Meghan got to *work*. I was even super eye roll-y about her Vanity Fair cover, but then came the cookbook+ multiple larger scale projects per quarter. It really highlighted just how *little* the Cambridges and Harry had been doing during their post-collegiate professional lives until her arrival. I would be willing to let the interpersonal dynamics of the four be whatever they are if they would *all* just do the work. This is precisely the kind of work that I would expect *any* of them to do without going back to school for an advanced degree in a given area of the public sector: it requires an intimate knowledge of the subject, experience but not expertise (Kate is a good and seemingly prolific photographer!); it highlights a public good (double whammy here: sharing a view of the pandemic for unity purposes; and philanthropy — people take things like public parks, museums, and public performance arts funding for granted, but they go away forever without public interest/funding); and it gives the public something tangible to *do* that is intrinsically valuable. It’s not a vanity “look at meeeee” project; it’s not commandeering the time of real experts in an area to pretend that you have also spent decades researching a subject (*ahem* early childhood education, development, and dynamics of family structures); and it’s not whispering gossip to tabloids about your harder working sister in law because she’s pretty and accomplished. This is higher purpose, aspirational, and achievable. If the Cambridges are looking for a do-over (and they really should be looking for a second wind), they need to start with things like this — small things that they can do every day of the week — and work in at least two major projects a quarter.

    As for the interpersonal stuff: quit being classist, racist haters, and call it out in the public sphere when you see it. Grinning maniacally at black children doesn’t erase the memory of you giggling at a black preacher (literally laughing at his presentation when he wasn’t being intentionally funny). Giving Meghan cat-butt face in church while people call her child a monkey and froth at the mouth because she’s not white makes you look like you support the assessment that she’s worth less than you are because she’s black. They need to get a handle on the personal stuff because it’s so obvious and ridiculous and *harmful*.

  18. Linda says:

    This is such a great project. Well done Kate and everyone involved.

  19. Amy says:

    I think this is great and will highlight everything that is going on and how it is seen through the eye of UK citizens and that has real meaning. Especially now people are feeling really disconnected and alone and so anything that builds connection and community feel is a positive.

    I can’t imagine how anyone could have anything negative to say about this. Good job Kate and the museum she is working with (national Gallery i think)

    • DarlingDiana says:

      It’s the same as those finding fault with Meghan’s savethechildren book reading. If you don’t like someone, it’s easy to assign less than benevolent meaning to the things they choose to do.
      I think both deserve kudos for these projects.

      • Amy says:

        This is true! And I will never understand that. It has to be exhausting to allow someone you dislike to take up that much space in your head that you devote endless time commenting and arguing with people to make them agree with your perception and beliefs.

      • Molly says:

        Yes. Honestly, the way the Cambridges handled things with the Sussexes, I’ll never feel fully comfortable supporting them again unless I can see that they’ve changed but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of having good ideas and doing good work. I can dislike and criticize someone and still keep perspective.

      • June says:

        @Molly, you sound sane! :)

  20. Chelle says:

    My hope is that as more and more people discover and rediscover art and the importance of art as a therapeutic means to cope with their feelings and express/showcase their lives and the natural world around them during this pandemic that that new found interest will translate into more funding at the K-12 level for arts programs. Funding for those programs began to erode under Reagan here in the US and been on a steady roll downhill until it’s almost nothing. Some classrooms never see an art teacher (basic primary paints let alone photography) or a music instructor.

    Whenever I listen to a piece of jazz or see a painting or a photograph—basically anything that predates the 80’s—I always wonder where did s/he learn to play like that, sing like that, paint like that. Schools are great incubators for talent to practice and collaborate. So many artists and band members met while in school, etc.

    • DarlingDiana says:

      If those that cannot create, can find comfort, connection, and enjoyment. I love that feeling of being a part of a whole.

  21. February Pisces says:

    That picture of kate with that kid is a meme waiting to happen.

  22. June says:

    This is great, and I am quite excited to see what kind of photos people send in. I think this will be a very interesting and meaningful project when it comes to looking back at people’s experiences during the pandemic. I love the National Portrait Gallery so I’m looking forward to this, and of course Kate’s involvement will provide more PR and as she is the patron as well as having a documented interest in photography, it feels like a good fit.

  23. MsIam says:

    Sounds like a good project. I know my local historical museum is asking for people to document their experiences during the lockdown. It’s crazy to think that we are all a part of history. This is much better than William’s dumb helicopter announcement and it makes sense if Kate is the patron.

  24. MeghanNotMarkle says:

    This is the kind of “work” Kate needs to be doing. Representing her patronages and doing things in her wheelhouse, like photography. See, Kate? It really isn’t that hard.

  25. Well-Wisher says:

    There is a competition that is done yearly in London since 2018? for the homeless called MYLONDON similar to MYTORONTO. I am not sure who started the idea of showcasing the talented homeless people. Apart from the parameters of just using disposable cameras this project is very similar. The other competition have media and museums participation, along with production of calendars, postcards,etc. Normally we have websites in Ontario to submit photos as a rule.

    So there. The above mentioned is a unsurprising copy.

    • ArtHistorian says:

      Well, museum professionals take inspiration from each other – and, as I’ve said previously, audience participation is a big thing in current museum practice. Both as an educational approach but also as a way to generate and keep public interest alive.

      I think that the National Portrait Gallery has come up with a good project that is quite relevant for the times – it is not ground-breaking but most exhibits/competitions aren’t, they don’t need to and there’s nothing wrong with that.