“I was interested in the work of the British Post-Impressionist painters… I liked how they depicted figures and interiors and everyday life in the late 19th, early 20th century. It feels as if time has stopped still in those paintings, but time is still going on outside. That’s how it felt a little bit when I was growing up.” —Richard Billingham
The photography book Ray’s a Laugh, the audacious portrait of Richard Billingham’s family and growing up in poverty in the West Midlands of England, was released in 1996 to great acclaim. Billingham’s work reads like a Charles Bukowski-esque family, filtered through the lens of the British Post-Impressionist painters. Breathtaking in its integrity and honesty, Billingham’s work is also often suffused with laugh-out-loud humor, as well as pathos. In his signature style, Billingham has continued his exploration of family, as well as other subjects that allow him to reveal more of the hidden humanity of everyday life, including landscapes, zoos, and other documentary work. In 2018, the feature-length film Ray & Liz, written and directed by Billingham, was released on the festival circuit. It is now open in London and will be released in the United States on July 10 of this year.
For this video, Jess Kohl visited with Billingham for the Photographers in Focus series from Nowness, and he spoke about his influences, what gives his work its innocence, and the importance of technical formats on viewer’s perspective.