Photography Reviews

Ray’s a Laugh – Richard Billingham

I don’t own this book. When this book was first introduced to me, I didn’t like it at all. I felt the work was very snappy and in my mind, I felt like this can be done by anyone. But then, few months passed by and I re-read it again while studying for photographers who shoots about family. Actually, the work is amusing! It’s sort of like a picture comic book about this man, Ray.

And Ray happens to be the artist’s father, who is an alcoholic. These pictures are the daily encounters with his family Ray, his mother Liz and his brother Jason. Pictures of Ray are mostly when at his drunk state, you see him falling off, throwing cats and getting hit by a tennis ball without any acknowledgement at all. Billingham was able to capture something hilarious during the drunk state of his dad. Ray’s almost always with a drink in his hand, or with a bottle around nearby; while there are also repetitive cats, dogs and dolls around indicating the life of chaos in this house. Work was intermissioned by greenery nature of birds and ducks, showing their lives still goes on even there are birds chirping and ducking swimming in the ponds. I must applause to Billingham for being able to turn something that can be so negative to something light and laughable.

In an interview with Billingham, he told the editor that this project, these photographs, was his way of making order in this chaos. It was his way of filtering through the negatives and trying to survive during this manic status. But then again, question is raised, what is the moral grounds here for publishing this work? When we are releasing something very private to a public audience, where is the line of ethics? This is not the end of the story between Ray and Liz. Richard Billingham directed a movie “Ray and Liz” which was released in Winter 2018 composed of even more moments of the lives between Ray and Liz. Has this gone too far? Or if something is so intertwined with ourselves, can we call it our own?