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About the artist:
Richard Billingham is an English photographer and artist, film maker and art teacher. His work has mostly concerned his family, the place he grew up in the West Midlands, but also landscapes elsewhere.
Billingham is best known for the Photobook Ray's A Laugh (1996), which documents the life of his alcoholic father Ray, and obese, heavily tattooed mother Liz. He has also published the collections Black Country (2003), Zoo (2007), and Landscapes, 2001–2003 (2008). He has made several short films, including Fishtank (1998) and Ray (2016). Billingham adapted the latter into his first feature film, Ray & Liz (2018), a memoir of his childhood.
He won the 1997 Citibank Private Bank Photography Prize (now Deutsche Börse Photography Prize) and was shortlisted for the 2001 Turner Prize. His work is held in the permanent collections of Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Government Art Collection in London.
Billingham lives on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales and holds professorships at Middlesex University and the University of Gloucestershire. 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. Billingham chose to use the cheapest film and development he could find. 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 knickknacks 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 1996, Billingham had an exhibition at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford, UK. In 1997, he 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 Citibank Private Bank Photography Prize (now Deutsche Börse Photography Prize). He was shortlisted for the 2001 Turner Prize, for his solo show at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, and others.
In 1998, Billingham made his first documentary video, Fishtank, a study of his father filmed with a handheld camera. It was commissioned by Artangel and Adam Curtis for BBC Television and shown on BBC Two in December 1998. Since 2011, Fishtank has been part of the Artangel Collection – 25 notable films available for loan, free of charge, to publicly funded UK museums and galleries.
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 organization The Public, resulting in a book.
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. A book of the work was published the following year.
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.
Billingham's work was included in the 2007 BBC television series The Genius of Photography, being the subject of part 3 of the "We Are Family" episode, made by Wall to Wall Media.
In 2009–2010, Billingham participated in a collective exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany titled: Ich, zweifellos.
Billingham wrote and directed his first feature film, Ray & Liz, in 2018. It is a memoir of his childhood and his parents, told in three separate time frames.
He now lives on the Gower Peninsular in South Wales. He holds professorships at the University of Gloucestershire and Middlesex University.
Richard Billingham is an English photographer and artist, film maker and art teacher. His work has mostly concerned his family, the place he grew up in the West Midlands, but also landscapes elsewhere. Billingham is best known for the Photobook
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