Kate’s book Hold Still, with 100 photos depicting Britain in lockdown, went straight to the top of Amazon’s sales list on release day. It was published a year to the day since Kate launched the photography project with the National Portrait gallery, encouraging the public to capture the “spirit of the nation” during the pandemic. Images of sleeping nurses, shielding elderly people and family scenes showing the reality of working from home were some of the images submitted, with 100 pictures chosen to also go on display across the country.
Describing the emotional power of the images, Kate said: “You felt like you had lived through the experience. That’s the power of photography.”
Kate also led an initiative to leave 150 copies of the Hold Still book at locations across the UK for book lovers to find and enjoy yesterday.
Wearing a red Éponine coat, the duchess, 39, placed the first copy near the statue of Queen Victoria overlooking the Broad Walk outside Kensington Palace Gardens.
She led the way as judges and finalists from the photo project, which attracted 31,000 entries, joined in to help an organisation called the Book Fairies to leave more copies at other sites.
Each copy contained a gold Book Fairy sticker and ribbon, along with a printed letter inside from Kate about her work.
The note told finders: “Once you have finished looking through the book, please leave it somewhere else in your community for the next person to enjoy.”
The Book Fairies have so far distributed more than 300,000 works of literature to encourage people to spread their love of reading.
They were also joined by the youngest Hold Still contributor, Coni Ainger, four, who snapped her mum Kate giving her dad a haircut. In a pink fairy costume, Coni proudly placed a copy in a park in Cheltenham, Glos.
Kate then visited the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, and saw how Barts Health NHS Trust had collaborated with the National Portrait Gallery to bring workshops to young patients and their families.
Gazing at artwork on display at the hospital, where paintings are used to stimulate patients, the mother of three saw an ink and glitter print by Kate Brice and said of her six-year-old daughter: “Charlotte would love that one.”
And she laughed when she picked up a book by Chris Haughton called Oh No, George! and commented: “That’s very appropriate.”
Kate was later handed the book as a gift for Prince George, seven.
Visiting the National Portrait Gallery’s archive, the duchess was told that the final 100 pictures that feature in the Hold Still photobook are set to become part of its national collection.
Kate, an enthusiastic amateur photographer whose family portraits have been seen all around the world, also hinted at one of the frustrations faced by any family snapper – managing to keep the children under control.
Shown one of the earliest family photographs in the gallery’s collection, the inventor Sir Charles Wheatstone and his family from 1851, she remarked: “I just don’t know how they kept the children still!”
Kate, who wrote the foreword to the new book, also met Hold Still finalists Lotti Sofia, Niaz Maleknia and Claudia Burton, and talked to them about their photographs.
The duchess told them: “These are personal moments you have captured and it’s a great thing to share them with the world.”
Proceeds from the sale of Hold Still: A Portrait Of Our Nation in 2020, co-authored by writer and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, will be split between mental health charity Mind and the National Portrait Gallery.