Richard Billingham (born 25 September 1970) is an English photographer and artist who is best known for his photobook Ray's A Laugh which documents the life of his alcoholic father Ray, and obese, heavily tattooed mother, Liz.
Billingham was born in Birmingham and studied as a painter at Bournville College of Art and the University of Sunderland. He came to prominence through his candid photography of his family in Cradley Heath, a body of work later added to and published in the acclaimed book Ray's A Laugh (1996). Ray's a Laugh is a portrayal of the poverty and deprivation in which he grew up. The photographs, which were taken on the cheapest film he could find, provide brash colours and bad focus which adds to the authenticity and frankness of the series. Ray, his father, and his mother Liz, appear at first glance as grotesque figures, with the alcoholic father drunk on his home brew, and the mother, an obese chain smoker with an apparent fascination for nicknacks and jigsaw puzzles. However, there is such integrity in this work that Ray and Liz ultimately shine through as troubled yet deeply human and touching personalities. The critic Julian Stallabrass describes Ray and Liz as embodiments of "what is in legend a particularly British stoicism and resilience, in the face of the tempest of modernity."
In 1997, Billingham was included in the exhibition Sensation at the Royal Academy of Art which showcased the art collection of Charles Saatchi and included many of the Young British Artists. Also in 1997, Billingham won the Citigroup Photography Prize. He was shortlisted for the 2001 Turner Prize, for his solo show at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham.
He has also made landscape photographs at places of personal significance around the Black Country, and more of these were commissioned in 2003 by the arts organisation The Public, resulting in a book. He has also experimented with video films and video projections.
In late 2006, Billingham exhibited a major new series of photographs and videos inspired by his memories of visiting Dudley Zoo as a child. The series, entitled "Zoo", was commissioned by Birmingham-based arts organisation, VIVID and was exhibited at Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire.
In the following year he created a series of photographs of "Constable Country", the area on the Essex / Suffolk border painted by John Constable. These were exhibited at the Town Hall Galleries, Ipswich.
In 2009-2010, Billingham participated in a collective exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany titled: Ich, zweifellos.
- Ray's a Laugh.
- Ray is'n Witz. Zürich: Scalo, 1996. ISBN 3-931141-25-X.
- Black Country. West Bromwich: The Public, 2003. ISBN 0-9540200-2-2.
- Landscapes, 2001-2003. Stockport: Dewi Lewis, 2008. ISBN 9781904587385. With an essay by Sacha Craddock.
- Outi Remes “Reinterpreting unconventional family photography: Richard Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh series” in Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism (Vol. 34, No. 6, 2007) 16–19.
- Juliana Engberg, Rikke Hansen and Outi Remes Richard Billingham: People, Places, Animals. (Southbank, Australia: Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 2007). ISBN 0-9775977-7-6.
- Perkin, Corrie (17 December 2007). "Shooting his family, other animals". The Australian (News Limited). Retrieved 27 July 2008.
- Julian Stallabrass, High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s, Verso, 2001, pp. 350–1.
- Royal Academy of Art, Sensation, 1997, pp. 52–7.
- Button, Virginia (2003). "Turner Prize 2001: Shortlisted artists, Richard Billingham". Turner Prize History. Tate Britain. Archived from the original on 22 June 2008. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
- Richard Moss. "Culture 24, Richard Billingham's Constable Photographs At The Town Hall Galleries Ipswich".
- Compton Verney Art Gallery
- Twentieth Century Society article on Dudley Zoo
- Richard Billingham in the Video Data Bank.
- The Zoo Enclosure and the Human Gaze