Richard Billingham: Ray’s a Laugh ( Scalo Publishers, 2000)



Photographer and painter Richard Billingham (born 1970) grew up in a cramped, high-rise tenement apartment with his mother and father in Birmingham, England. Ray’s a Laugh is an intimate glimpse into the lives of his close family.


“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.” Richard Billingham






“The dominant readings of Billingham’s series have ignored the artist’s claimed intention. These readings demonstrate that culture, politics, and the spectator’s individual interests affect the interpretations of artwork. But like Socrates (famous for his ugliness), who once asked his students to close their eyes in order to see their own internal beauty, Billingham–famous for his dysfunctional parents and the messy council flat–has asked his spectators to see the formal qualities and beauty of his interior pictures.” (








Richard Billingham: Ray’s a Laugh; text: Richard Billingham; publisher: Scalo; 96 pages; year: 2000; softcover; 285 x 215 mm.; 2nd paperback edition; text in english.