‘Ray’s a laugh’ – Richard Billingham


Richard Billingham lived with his alcoholic father ‘Ray’ in Birmingham in a seventh floor council flat. He started taken photographs of his dad around their home on film, then included his mother later when she moved back in with animals who are also included. His brother would sometimes appear in his images but rarely as he was not really there. His images show the realism of his life revealing the grit an dirt of living in poverty. Again like the previous artists I have researched, Billingham’s images are raw and truthful, as he was surrounded in this environment he captures moments that are the most truthful. Again something I hope to recreate in my own story book. Like Billingham I want to capture moments that are mainly not staged, showing the audience what would be happening in normal day to day.

Ray’s a laugh was published in 2000 by Scalo it’s almost a chronicle of their lives with his alcoholic unemployed father Ray and his mother ‘big’ Liz. The series reveals Ray’s severe alcoholism and Elizabeth’s obsessive collecting of pets and cheap chachkies paired with the poverty they have been forced to live in as a result of Ray’s addiction. Billingham chose to shoot the images on the cheapest film he could find and used a harsh flash to add to the rawness and candidness of the series. His snap shot aesthetic shows the brilliance in ugliness, showing poverty and pain. Billingham had said “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.” Between the rawness and chaos, Billingham’s images still manage to show tenderness, and even joy.

Another aspect of this photo book I like is the layout of these photographs. As I want to create a book myself I’m exploring the different layout ideas. I like the double page spread of one image it makes it more dynamic but I also like the juxtaposition of having animals in contrast of his dad , I feel these together further the living standards.


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