1. The Panel of 5 Judges

In this article, Lockdown in Britain through the lens, I wrote about the online exhibition, Hold still from the National Portrait Gallery. Hold Still presents a collection of 100 photographs recording people’s experiences of the 2020 Lockdown in Britain. Entries were submitted and a panel of 5 judges were responsible for selecting 100 pictures out of approximately 30,000 for the online exhibition.

Each person within the panel brought their contribution to the palette with their different backgrounds and interests in photography along with its messages conveyed.

  1. Lemn Sissay (Writer & Poet)

An author, poet, writer and chancellor of the University of Manchester, it seems Lemn’s intellectual contribution was well-placed in selecting the pictures that needed to capture some of the impacts of the lockdown. I haven’t read any of his works but after researching him briefly, it seems Lemn endured a challenging childhood of going through foster homes after his biological mother was sadly separated from him.

Lemn’s pursuit to find his biological mother may have stirred his interest in writing poetry from the age of 17. In 2005, he wrote Something Dark (a drama which dealt with the search for his family) which was broadcasted on radio. Following his first poems from the age of 17, Lemn published a number of writings, poetry and broadcasted on radio himself, plus he managed to successfully find his biological mother at the age of 21.

With these milestones in life along with the ability to use words as therapy, or at least provide reflections on eventful circumstances, it’s no wonder the panel had him as a judge for the photographs. I would imagine he would use insightful rationale for selecting the pictures and provide eloquent commentary on the significance of each image.

You can read more about Lemn Sissay and his works here.

2. Ruth May (Chief Nursing Officer)

With a longterm career in the nursing profession, Ruth was appointed as Nursing Officer for England in January 2019, (one year and 3 months before the Pandemic).

As nurses are underappreciated (in my opinion), now more than ever, we need to honour, praise and respect them along with all medical staff.

Having Ruth on the panel ensured tribute was paid to nurses and medical staff, caught on camera, celebrating their achievements and praising their dedication.

Behind Closed Doors (Hold Still)

There are a number of striking snapshots selected for this online exhibition, honouring those who save lives and wiling to put themselves at risk.

At the End of a Shift (Hold Still)

Some images have depicted the challenges of the medical profession whilst others have expressed humour, keeping it light-hearted and lifting up our spirits.

Happe (Hold Still)

I say it again and again, but I can’t say it enough – thank you to the NHS for saving lives and being out there everyday with patients, helping those who are vulnerable and ill! 🙏 👏

3. Kate Middleton (HRH, The Duchess of Cambridge)

A subject of many photographs herself, her image is captured gracefully within the public eye. Need I say more about a lady who has gripped our attention with her elegance and impeccable style on camera?

During the lockdown, the Duchess had spoken to a number of medical staff, schools and children online to listen to their concerns. Apparently her interests in photography stems from taking pictures of her own children. However, Kate as a Degree holder of History of Art, serves as a supporter and patron to the National Portrait Gallery. She clearly has a keen eye for art and photography. It was Kate Middleton who I recognised as the first person to enthusiastically engage the public to submit their entries for the Hold Still photo exhibition.

4. Maryam Wahid (Photographer/Artist)

Flowers of lilac colours and pale pink blossom trees are the very essence of this inviting portrait of Maryam. Here she stands striking a pose in a picture that classically defines the sheer softness of spring.

I didn’t find much online on Maryam other than her Instagram. (You should note that shamefully for me, I don’t use an Instagram account).

However her own website clearly displays her talent in photography. She has a number of evocative and nostalgic images of herself and other women draped in traditional clothes (yet balanced with a sense of modernity and contemporary fashionable colours that compliment the surroundings).

In her website, A Woman’s Journey, her work takes us into the world of each woman being photographed. Each photo represents a woman with a platform of her own, conveying her own voice in the world.

Here she beautifully captures these ladies with poise.

Maryam has a Degree in photography and a plethora of awards including the British Journal of Photography’s 2018 Portrait of Britain award. Her collection of photographs are mesmerising and should not be missed. It’s no wonder she was in the panel for Hold Still.

5. Nicholas Cullinan (Director of the National Portrait Gallery)

Finally as a director of the National Portrait Gallery, I find it fascinating that Nicholas worked as a Visitor Services Assistant within the very same gallery while he was a student. It’s always lovely to see galleries reaching out to all classes and cultures so everyone is able to aesthetically and emotionally appreciate the value of the photographs as art. I’m sure the director has been brilliant in getting public engagement.

If you want to know more about how the exhibition was organised or how the 100 pictures were selected by this dynamic panel of judges, be sure to check this link.

Thank you for reading. 🙂

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