Kate meets photographer and NHS heroes who star in her Hold Still project
The Duchess of Cambridge has met one of the talented photographers whose work appeared in her Hold Still project, as well as some of the inspiring people who star in the pictures.
Accompanied by Prince William, Kate travelled to Waterloo to view one of the 112 community exhibitions which showcase the moving collection of snaps.
She launched Hold Still in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, with the aim of capturing and documenting the spirit, hopes, fears and feelings of the nation during the coronavirus pandemic.
During the visit, Kate and William met Sami Massalami Mohammed Elmassalami Ayad, a volunteer at a community Food Hub in Hackney.
Sami appeared in Grey Hutton’s portrait, ‘Sami’, which shows him working as a volunteer at the Children With Voices Community Food Hub in the height of the Covid pandemic.
Sami is originally from Sudan but was raised in Brazil, moving to the UK to study for his PhD.
He said: “It was such a joy to meet the Duke ad Duchess and I can’t believe my picture made it to the final 100.
“I didn’t even know it was being submitted by my colleague a the food hub so it came as a massive shock when I got a call from the National Portrait Gallery saying the Duchess wanted to speak to me.
“She called me a few weeks ago and we had such a lovely conversation. She told me how she wanted to build a a snapshot of how Britain was coping in the pandemic, but to show all sides of what people have gone through and are still going through.
“She came across as really caring and dedicated, I was so impressed she took the tome to call me.
“I told her about the work they do at the food hub, and she agreed it’s such a vital project. I was lucky enough to help out there for a couple of months but they always need help throughout the year.”
Sami told William his colleague submitted the picture of him standing in the garden with his apron on without him knowing, to which the Duke laughed loudly and relied: “oh that’s great, you didn’t know at all? Love it. That’s brilliant.”
Kate wore an Alexander McQueen red coat for the engagement, and had a face mask on for the car journey there.
Kate and William then travelled to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, where they met frontline workers including Joyce Duah, who took Hold Still’s ‘All in This Together’ photo.
The specialist oncology pharmacist’s picture shows her two colleagues, Amelia Chowdhury and Dipal Samuel, who were redeployed to the intensive care unit at St Bartholomew’s at the height of the pandemic.
It was taken on 15 May during Joyce’s lunch break.
Kate said: “Thank you so much for the image. It had such an impact it captured the moment, it was a look behind the scenes.
“The story of what you experienced is so important.”
William said: “It is important for history purposes to show that actually happened.”
Sitting together in the hospital’s Princess Alice Gardens today the three pals told the royal couple how strongly they felt about the picture project.
Dipal told William and Kate: “It will go down in history. When children are doing history or biology, they can have these photographs of mum doing this.
“There were times when goggles were in short supply. We didn’t have enough visors or goggles so one day I had swimming goggles. It was so hot there was sweat filling up my swimming goggles.
William replied: “I love the ingenuity and thinking out of the box. Your eyeballs were literally swimming in swimming goggles.”
Dipal, who said she would work on the ward at the height of the crisis without stopping between 9.30am and 1.30pm, replied: “It was really uncomfortable.”
Keen snapper Joyce said the chosen photo was one of a series she took off her colleagues getting into their PPE kit in April.
She said she was “overwhelmed” to make the final 100 and to meet Kate and William, both 38.
Joyce, who shielded patients on the hospital’s cancer ward, said afterwards: “I married photography and care together.
“I took a series of photos of them getting into and out of their PPE.
“I thought it was the most interesting aspect.
“It shows Amelia and Dipal writing their names with a marker on each others PPE
“Because when a patient wakes up they know our names. It was a very touching sentiment.
“Patients were often in a coma and so coming round confused and didn’t know who was treating them.
“But also we couldn’t even recognise each other at times without names.”
Dipal added: “I put a smiley face on Amelia’s as a whimsical gesture.
“Amelia wrote a love heart and ‘pharmacy’.
“It was also for our own camaraderie and morale so we knew who our colleagues and friends were when we saw them in the lift or corridor.”
Kate and William also spoke to medical oncology trainee Myria Galazi, 36, head of pharmacy Sotiris Antoniou, 46, and respiration physiotherapist Isobel Fale, 26.
Isobel told the couple she appreciated the weekly Clap For Carers, which Kate, William and their children George, Charlotte and Louis, joined in.
She said: “They asked us if we felt valued by the public. I told them after a long hard day at work I knew every Thursday we had the whole nation behind us.”
Speaking about the winning photo, Sotiris said: “They will remember this for the rest of their lives.”
The visit marked the launch of the UK-wide Hold Still community exhibition.
The portraits are now on display in 80 towns and cities across the UK, bringing the stories of individuals and families during lockdown back to their communities.
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Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge
They will be on display on billboards and posters, including ones at bus stops and train stations, for the next four weeks.
Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: “From the initial concept to where we are today with this national living exhibition the Duchess has been phenomenal.
“She has been dedicated and thoughtful and what we have is a wonderful and moving snapshot of the compelling and varied experiences so many people have experienced throughout the country.
“We are so proud of what has been achieved and I hope many people will be able to get out and view the exhibition across the 112 community sites.”
Where you can see the Hold Still community exhibition”
Cockenzie And Port Seton
Hyde Kensington Lancing Lewes Litherland
Stoke On Trent
Westminster (National Portrait Gallery)
Alrewas (National Memorial Arboretum)