Richard Billingham [notes]

Hornby , N. et al. (2001) Writers On Artists. London: Penguin

Writers on Artists Nick Hornby

Richard Billingham’s images hold your attention
“You’d rather walk wander off and look at something funnier, or more beautiful, or less real…But you can’t. Wandering off is simply not an option, not if you have any curiosity at all: there is too much to think about, too much going on, too much narrative.”

“Anyone who has parents of any kind, let alone parents like Billingham’s, would wander whether it were possible to justify snapping their moments of distress and plastering them all over the walls of the Royal Academy.”

“Part of his art is to strip distances away, to convince you that life is unmediated – an artistic device in itself.”

“Spend enough time with these pictures and eventually you realise that their complexity and empathy answers any of the questions you might ask of them and their creator: there’s nothing exploitative going on here.”

“It would have been easy for the artist to let these pictures become self-pitying – what sort of childhood and young adulthood is possible in this domestic climate? – but they are not: there is too much tolerance.”

Billingham puts equal focus on Elizabeth and Raymond, so the pictures become a depiction of a marriage as well as an analysis of social despair or urban alienation.

“That Billingham was able to take the pictures at all is a clear indication that physical abuse is an organic part of the day.”

“Richard Billingham, one would hazard, loves his parents, but they are not loveable, not in the most straightforward sense of the term.”

Which is why the series isn’t focused on pity, anger or disgust “he knows that enough of his audience will feel those things anyway, and that actually the truth is more complicated.”

Manchester, E. (2005). ‘Untitled’, Richard Billingham. [online]. [Accessed on 8th December 2015, 16:05].

Richard Billingham is well-know for his series Ray’s a Laugh, which is a collection of images focused on his mother and father who lives in a council house in the british Midlands between 1990-1996

He took the photographs with the intentions of creating detailed paintings, usually shot on 35mm out of date film

he shots were very candid and spontaneous

Many of the images were published by Anthony Reynolds Gallery in the book Ray’s a Laugh in 1996, most of the images were untitled

“This book is about my close family. My father Raymond is a chronic alcoholic. He doesn’t like going outside and mostly drinks homebrew. 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 is now back with Ray and Liz again. Recently he became a father. Ray says Jason is unruly. Jason says Ray’s a laugh but doesn’t want to be like him.”

(Quoted in Ray’s a Laugh, back cover.)


Unknown., About Richard Billingham [online]. Artangel. Available from: [Accessed on 18th December 2015, at 17:21].

He was born in 1970

he became widely recognised when he displayed his work at the Barbican Gallery in London in 1994. Which was the same year he graduated from the University of Sunderland.

Following the exhibition the series was made into the book ‘Ray’s a Laugh’ in 1996.

They were also included the Royal Accademys famous show ‘Sensation’ in 1997.

He works mainly with stills but has made several films including ‘Fishtank’, which was created around the same time as ‘Ray’s a Laugh’.








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