Photographer’s loving portrait makes it into Gallery exhibit

Competition-winner: this portrait of her grandfather, by Nina Robinson, is now part of an exhibition by the National Portrait Gallery

A Crystal Palace-based photographer, Nina Robinson, is to have one of her pictures included in a National Portrait Gallery exhibition after her photo of her grandfather in lockdown was named yesterday among the top 100 images in a competition.

“Hold Still: A Portrait of our Nation” is a digital exhibit which attracted 31,000 entries, and where the judges included Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” Robinson told Inside Croydon after the news of the 100 hand-picked portraits was announced.

“Hold Still” invited people from across the country to submit a photographic portrait which they had taken during lockdown. The selection panel included the Gallery’s director, Nicholas Cullinan, author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, Chief Nursing Officer for England Ruth May and award-winning photographer Maryam Wahid, as well as the Duchess.

The judges said, “The final 100 portraits create a snapshot of the UK over the past few months and reflect resilience and bravery, humour and sadness, creativity and kindness, and human tragedy and hope. A selection of these photographs will also be shown in cities across the UK later in the year.”

Work in progress: Nina Robinson

Robinson, 28, works as a freelance photographer specialising in portraits, as well as photographing live theatre and events.  “I also have an maker business where I design cards featuring black and brown characters, as they are often underrepresented in the card industry.”

Her poignant exhibition image was taken on a visit to her 86-year-old grandfather, Michael Csaplar, when he came to his door wearing a mask because of social distancing rules.

“My grandad is a survivor of the Hungarian Uprising who took asylum in the UK in 1956. Even though he’s lived here for all these years, English is not his first language, and the information in the media about coronavirus does not always translate.

“It is up to us, his family, to turn the news into advice he can understand. It is us he turns to for information on keeping safe and we value this sense of responsibility to care for him.

“We are the ones to explain that we can’t hug him and that he has to wear a mask, and he can’t have his hair cut.

“In us, he trusts.”

Robinson adds, “At the time I took this photograph of my grandad, he was, along with everyone else, blissfully unaware that he had cancer. He got diagnosed a few weeks afterwards and now my relationship with this photograph has changed. It has become more treasured.

“I’m even more overjoyed that he’s made it into this amazing project.

“I have never felt more creative in my life than during lockdown. I used the extra free time for an overdue exploration of art and making, as before now I felt I had neither the time freedom nor mental freedom to do so.

“‘In Family We Trust’ is part of a covid-themed photo series I made to document a year that will no doubt go down in history.

Robinson has also taken the past six months to launch her brand Nina Bombina, where she designs cards featuring black and brown characters, as they are often underrepresented in the greetings card industry. Her work is available to order via Moonpig, Thortful and Etsy, and are coming soon to Funky Pigeon.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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