Kate Middleton marked the end of her Hold Still exhibition this week in a remarkable way. The 38-year-old Duchess of Cambridge hosted a video call with frontline nurses who submitted a winning portrait to the competition. “Thank you so much for joining me,” the royal said to #HoldStill finalist Johannah Churchill and Dr Edward Cole, who was present for the latter’s winning snap. During the call, the trio discussed the vital role Johannah’s portrait, entitled “Melanie, March 2020,” has played in representing frontline workers across the world as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“I hope you have seen and feel the country’s appreciation and pride in all the hard work that you do and all the frontline workers do on a day to day basis,” Kate told the pair from her comfy sofa seat in Kensington Palace. Sweet photos of her children Prince George, Princess Charlotteand Prince Louis were placed behind her.
Johanna’s photo captured her fellow nurse Melanie in full PPE, preparing the clinic for patients as the health crisis rose in March. The striking portrait was reimagined by artist Pete Barber on the side of a building in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. This was one of the 115 community exhibition sites for the Hold Still project.
“Johannah, I just want to say a huge thank you to you for sending in your really amazing image of Melanie,” Kate said. “It’s really inspiring, it’s very emotive and I think it’s really touched everybody with the reality that it shows of all those who have worked on the frontline and the difficulties that you’ve all faced.”
“I think it was an important part of the story to try to show members of the public and those at home who might not be witnessing what you obviously witnessed on a day to day basis,” she added. Johannah, who received a scholarship to get a masters in photography at the University of Middlesex after completing her degree in the subject, explained that she’s only really photographed nurses since they’re the people around her.
She told the Duchess that nurses around the world have reached out to her since “Melanie” was shared. “People have actually contacted me to say thank you for taking the image,” the healthcare worker said. “I’m actually really surprised I’ve had a lot of messages from complete strangers. I got a message from a woman who’s a nurse in ITU in Manchester and she said she stood in front of the mural and cried.”
Kate thinks that “it’s become such an iconic portrait that represents a lot of what frontline workers have experienced and what those of you across the UK have put your lives on the line in looking after us all this year.”
“I think it certainly touched us in terms of the judging panel, we felt it was a hugely moving image and I think it has really resonated with lots of the public too, so well done,” she said. ”I think it will be an image that people will remember in the future as showcasing the realities of what so many of you witnessed.”
Kate, who looked lovely in a powder blue cardigan by Boden, held the conversation as a way to bookend Hold Still. She launched the moving photography competition in May in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, of which she is patron.