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Hold Still: Indian grandmas in Covid-19 portrait journey backed by Queen

Hold Still: Indian grandmas in Covid-19 portrait journey backed by Queen

Indian grandmothers and their love for their grandchildren are among 100 snapshots from a Covid-19 lockdown photographic journey curated by the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, and backed by Queen Elizabeth II.

The 'Hold Still' digital exhibition, featuring 100 portraits selected from 31,598 submissions from across the UK during the project's six-week entry period since May, was launched this week by the National Portrait Gallery in London. Focussed on three core themes - Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal and Acts of Kindness - the images present a unique record of shared and individual experiences during an extraordinary period of history, conveying humour and grief, creativity and kindness, tragedy and hope.

Dadi's Love

Among the 100 photographs to make the final cut is 'Dadi's Love' (pictured above), a portrait by Simran Janjua with reference to the Indian word for father's mother - dadi.

Janjua's note reads: “This photograph, taken on 20 June 2020, captures love and connection during the lockdown. It shows my sister-in-law with her grandmother (Dadi in Punjabi) meeting after months of being apart.

“In this moment I felt the depth of love they feel for each other, captured by both the joy and longing in their eyes. Separated by a window but connected by love.”

Ballet Class

The second Indian grandma in the line-up is a sari-clad lady doting over her granddaughter as she rehearses during an online ballet class. The portrait is taken by 12-year-old Vedant and shows his sister, Aurelie, rehearsing for her ballet class over Zoom after her weekly classes were cancelled in lockdown.

Vedant's note reads: “I find it unremarkable now but, few months back, no one would have thought to do it this way. This picture was taken while she was practising ballet in our London home and my grandmother is watching her.

“The picture has lots of contrast such as my Indian grandmother wearing a sari, watching my younger sister dancing Western dance, wearing a Western ballet dress. Also the picture shows different generations and future technology coexisting in our modern English house with wooden floors and traditional wallpaper. Looking back at the photograph now I feel this new way of living is going to stay for a while.”

Hopes and fears

Launched by the Duchess of Cambridge and the National Portrait Gallery in May,'Hold Still' invited people of all ages, from across the UK to submit a photographic portrait which they had taken during lockdown. The project aimed to capture and document the spirit, the mood, the hopes, the fears and the feelings of the nation as we continued to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Besides Kate Middleton, the judging panel included Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery; Lemn Sissay MBE, writer and poet; Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England; and Maryam Wahid, photographer. The panel assessed the images on the emotions and experiences they convey rather than on their photographic quality or technical expertise.

“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,” the Gallery said.

A selection of the photographs featured in the digital exhibition will also be shown in towns and cities across the UK later in the year.

Inspiring portraits

In her message for the digital launch, the Queen said: "It was with great pleasure that I had the opportunity to look through a number of the portraits that made the final 100 images for the 'Hold Still' photography project.

"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, recognising community spirit or showing the efforts of individuals supporting those in need."

The Duchess, the Queen's granddaughter-in-law, said she was "overwhelmed” by the public's response to 'Hold Still' and the quality of the images have been extraordinary, with the poignancy and the stories behind the portraits equally moving.

by Nadia Hatink

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