Video report by ITV News Correspondent Chloe Keedy
The Duchess of Cambridge has praised a health worker for taking a picture which “captured the moment” of the fight against coronavirus as she launched a photo exhibition highlighting the humans behind the struggle against the pandemic.
The Hold Still photographic exhibition features 100 images chosen to go on display across the country that represents the UK's response to the pandemic.
The Duchess of Cambridge's comments came as she met specialist oncology pharmacist Joyce Duah, whose image of two colleagues is one of the 100 images.
The duchess, who was joined by her husband, told Ms Duah: “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.”
The pharmacist’s image, called All In This Together, was taken at the height of the Covid-19 crisis and showed pharmacy technician colleagues Amelia Chowdhury, 34, and Dipal Samuel, 38, writing their names, smiley faces and love hearts on their disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) aprons.
Kate and a panel of judges selected 100 images from more than 31,000 entries for the Hold Still exhibition, which launched with the National Portrait Gallery in May and challenged the public to document life during lockdown.
Hold Still focused on three themes – Helpers And Heroes, Your New Normal, and Acts Of Kindness – with the final 100 tackling subjects including family life in lockdown, the work of healthcare staff and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sitting together in the Princess Alice Gardens at London’s St Bartholomew’s Hospital, the three health workers told the royal couple how strongly they felt about the picture project.
Ms Samuel said: “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.
The Duke of Cambridge replied: “I love the ingenuity and thinking out of the box. Your eyeballs were literally swimming in swimming goggles.”
The Cambridges also travelled to Waterloo in south London to view one of the 80 public exhibition sites across the country for the duchess’s project, with the 100 photographs featured on billboards and outdoor poster sites over four weeks.
The couple met Sami Massalami Mohammed Elmassalami Ayad, a volunteer at a community food hub in Hackney, who featured in one of the portraits displayed at the site – Sami, by Grey Hutton.
The PhD student said: “I didn’t even know it was being submitted by my colleague at 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.”
The student told William that a colleague had submitted the picture without him knowing.
The duke laughed loudly and replied: “Oh, that’s great! You didn’t know at all? Love it. That’s brilliant.”
All 100 portraits will feature in a special exhibition hosted by the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire from Friday.