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UNTITLED, 1994 by RICHARD BILLINGHAM (Born 1970) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley




UNTITLED, 1995 by RICHARD BILLINGHAM (Born 1970) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley





Richard Billingham was born in 1970 in Birmingham. His father, Ray Billingham, lost his job as a machinist in 1980, and the family became destitute. Selling their beloved terraced to house to a conman for just two thousand pounds, the family moved into a seventh floor flat in a council block in Cradley Heath, west of Birmingham.

Billingham worked every night at a local supermarket as a teenager. He first picked up a camera when he was nineteen years old, when he had just enrolled into an art foundation course at Bourneville College. Billingham at that time was living alone with his now-alcoholic father, in the Cradley Heath flat. Billingham began to rigorously document his father's solitary, claustrophobic existence. Originally, Billingham had intended to use his photographs as studies for art school paintings, but preferred the immediacy the medium of photography gave him.

Billingham moved to Sunderland to undertake a degree, although he continued to visit the Cradley Heath flat. His mother Liz eventually rejoined his father, bringing with her the ten cats and three dogs she had acquired. Billingham took stark photographs of the couple and their daily routines; home brew beer, cigarette smoke, television dinners and jigsaw puzzles. The photographs combine an unflinching and bleak view of poverty with tenderness and sympathy, ultimately presenting Ray and Liz as troubled yet deeply human.

The photographs were discovered by Billingham's tutor at Sunderland University in plastic bags in his student room, and were published together as a book Ray's a Laugh in 1996. Billingham's work was purchased by Charles Saatchi and subsequently exhibited in Sensation at the Royal Academy of Art. He won the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 1997 and received a nomination for the Turner Prize in 2001.

Billingham has gone on to create works that explore his upbringing in a wider sense, using landscape to examine the personal significance of Birmingham and the Black Country to his early life. His series Zoo was inspired by early memories of visiting Dudley Zoo as a child. Billingham lectures at the University of Gloucestershire and Middlesex University. He lives and works in Swansea with his wife and three children, and he continues to document his own family life.

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