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National Portrait Gallery

Collage of self portraits taken by the nation during the COVID 19 crisis

Hold Still – using the power of digital to engage the public in a time of crisis

London, UK

Responding quickly to the Covid pandemic, our long-term client the National Portrait Gallery invited people of all ages to submit a photographic portrait, taken in a six-week period during May and June 2020. Entries were focussed on three themes – Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal and Acts of Kindness.

Over 31,000 submissions were received with entrants ranging from 4 to 75 years-old. From these, a panel of judges including The Duchess of Cambridge selected 100 portraits, assessing the images on the emotions and experiences they conveyed.

The final 100 featured in a special digital exhibition, supported by Taylor Wessing. Together they presented a unique and highly personal record of this extraordinary period in our history.

We pulled together the technical infrastructure for Hold Still in a matter of weeks and on a minimal budget. This was made possible by previous work we had done for the National Portrait Gallery to build them an automated competition entry system serving their annual portrait competitions, the BP Portrait Award and the Taylor Wessing Prize.

We were quickly able, by adapting the existing software, to pull together an easy-to-use public upload and entry system with an integrated back-end system that allowed the judges to efficiently review tens of thousands of entries.

Hold Still was free to enter but the campaign was so successful that it has now given rise to a best-selling book that is providing much needed funds for the museum. You can read more about the project on the NPG’s website.

Hold Still won the Museums and Heritage 2021 award for Best Use of Digital UK.

Museums have a unique capacity to engage the public via online campaigns like Hold Still (and pay-to-enter art competitions like the Taylor Wessing Prize). We are proud to be able to supply high-quality technical infrastructure to make these things possible.

If you would like to discuss a related project, please get in touch.