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Life during lockdown captured through the camera lens
A National Portrait Gallery exhibition reflecting life during the coronavirus lockdown is going on display at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The exhibition, entitled Hold Still, was launched by The Duchess of Cambridge in May as an ambitious community project to gather photos portraying life across the UK during lockdown. A total of 31,598 images were submitted by people from all walks of life, with the final selection of 100 portraits being unveiled in a digital exhibition on the National Portrait Gallery's website in September. The Arboretum, at Alrewas, near Lichfield, which is regarded as the nation's centre of Remembrance, will now host a physical installation of the Hold Still exhibition on its 150 acre site from 24 October to 6 December.
Over the Rainbow, by Chris Taylor
Visitors to the Arboretum, which contains nearly 30,000 maturing trees and almost 400 memorials, will be able to view the photographic exhibition arranged over a series of large outdoor screens in the site's amphitheatre. Each of the images encompasses one of three core themes – Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal, and Acts of Kindness. Together they present a unique record of shared and individual experiences during an extraordinary period of history, conveying a range of emotions from humour and kindness to grief. A judging panel, which included The Duchess of Cambridge, assessed the photos for their emotion rather than artistic quality or technical expertise. Hold Still includes photos of handmade rainbows, resilient keyworkers and people dealing with illness, isolation and loss.
The display at the National Memorial Arboretum forms part of a UK-wide community exhibition which sees the Hold Still portraits exhibited on hundreds of billboard and poster sites across the country for a four-week period from October 20. The outdoor installation at the Arboretum is free-to-enter but, due to Covid-19, the site is only open to pre-booked visitors for the foreseeable future, with numbers restricted. Tickets can be booked on the Arboretum's website with bookings available two weeks in advance.
Chris Ansell, Head of Learning and Participation at the National Memorial Arboretum, said: "This unique exhibition provides a fascinating overview of how different people and communities experienced lockdown. While everyone was subject to restrictions, no one person's experience was the same as another's, as we all battled with different circumstances and changes to our day to day lives. We are pleased to have partnered with the National Portrait Gallery to display this inspirational collection of images. Visitors to the Arboretum will gain a rare insight into the diverse experiences of those recorded in the exhibition."
Founded in 1856, the aim of the National Portrait Gallery, London is 'to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture, and ... to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media'. The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world.