Richard Billingham Ray’s A Laugh

richard billingham :
‘my father raymond is a chronic alcoholic. he doesn’t like going outside, my mother elizabeth hardly drinks, but she does smoke a lot. she likes pets and things that are decorative. they married in 1970 and I was born soon after. my younger brother jason was taken into care when he was 11, but now he is back with ray and liz again. recently he became a father. ‘dad was some kind of mechanic, but he’s always been an alcoholic. it has just got worse over the years. he gets drunk on cheap cider at the off license.
he drinks a lot at nights now and gets up late. originally, our family lived in a terraced house, but they blew all the redundancy money and, in desperation, sold the house. then we moved to the council tower block,
where ray just sits in and drinks. that’s the thing about my dad, there’s no subject he’s interested in, except drink.’
‘it’s not my intention to shock, to offend, sensationalise,
be political or whatever, only to make work that is as spiritually meaningful as I can make it – in all these photographs I never bothered with things like the negatives. some of them got marked and scratched. I just used the cheapest film and took them to be processed at the cheapest place. I was just trying to make order out of chaos.’ biography
richard billingham was born in birmingham in 1970 and began taking photographs while studying fine arts at sunderland university. after college he returned to birmingham, and worked stacking
shelves in qwik save, doing art by night. billingham began photographing his family as reference material for paintings. the subjects are his father ray, his obese and tattoed mother liz, his unruly younger brother jason, the dog’s another character: caught flash-pupilled with the cat
beside the fridge with the brown dribbles all down it; or thoroughly chewing its behind on the sofa.
he took so many shots that the family stopped noticing and the result is that they are portraited without artefice. his photos were first shown in the barbican art gallery, london in 1994 entitled ‘who’s looking at the family’. two years later these selected images feature in billingham’s book,
‘ray’s a laugh’, published by scalo, 1996.
after the overnight fame, he stopped taking still pictures, but moved on to hi-8 video footage, resulting in the 47minute TV film called ‘fishtank’, commissioned by artangel.

Quote from: accessed 23/12/12


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