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Ray's a Laugh [Paperback]

Richard Billingham
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 Nov 2000
British photographer Richard Billingham has produced a frighteningly personal artist's book in the tradition of Nan Goldin's "Ballad of Sexual dependency" and R. Crumb's cartoons and films. Here the subject is Billingham's own dysfunctional family torn apart by the ravages of alcoholism and poverty. Billingham documents their squalid surroundings and violent interactions with shocking candor. He turns his camera lens on Raymond, his alcoholic father, stumbling through his life in a drunken stupor; Elizabeth, his mother, covered in tattoos who fills the emotional void in her life with her collection of pets; and Jason, his brother, an aimless young man who is drawn to drugs. This project blasts the lid off of one of our remaining taboos.
Paperback, 8.25 x 11 inches, 112 pages, 75 color illustrations.

Product details

  • Paperback: 100 pages
  • Publisher: Scalo; New edition edition (17 Nov 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3908247373
  • ISBN-13: 978-3908247371
  • Product Dimensions: 28.4 x 20.9 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,134,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
I found the images to be very powerful, personal and poignant, not to be taken lightly as a joke, or looked at for mere entertainment. I was extremely moved by how raw and honest they are. They've changed the way I look at photographs: less technical merit, more content and the relationship between the viewer and the viewed, and all that says about life. I thank Richard Billingham for this extraordinary collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Billingham does it 8 Feb 2011
Billingham gives a frank depiction of his family life in their home. Cats and dogs run aloof; mother completes jigsaws; father falls over through his drunkenness. A series originally meant for referencing as a painter, it was only by chance the artist's series became a photography project.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smacks you upside down about 20 min after you've walked away 24 Dec 2003
By Julia T - Published on Amazon.com
When I first looked at this book, I wrote it off as odd, but stupid...snapshots some guy took of his family. So what? We all have photos like this. But this book contains some of the most disturbing photos I have seen in a while, and I've seen a lot that are considered to be disturbing... they are also brillant.
Billingham's photos completely avoid the current trends in contemporary photography (large format, brilliant prints) to offer an honest look at life today. And that life is odd. His prints appear to follow in the tradition of Eggleston's and Friedlander's in that they are of "nothing important", while adding that taste of the raw, the real, which is found in (Larry) Clark's photos. I would probably say his work is closest to Nan Goldin's, but undercut with a calm bitterness or a bitter calm.
This book makes you think a lot about what "art photography" is. It does not use fancy technology or obviously subject matter to push the boundaries of the medium. Definitely a book for the connisseur who wants to reflect on the nature of photography today.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. 2 Feb 2005
By Jack Carter - Published on Amazon.com
I am an avid fan of Billingham and 'Ray's a laugh' really is remarkable. Powerful with a gift for storytelling that reminds me of Nick Waplington (see Living Room & The Wedding), but Billingham here is much more intimate. The courage to put your family on public view, is breathtaking.

So Why do Scala try to mess it all up, with really poor layouts. Some really strong images lose their stock as they disappear into the book gutters, and the compositions of many of the pages and their counter pages are just plain wrong.

A brilliant book marred by bad design. We are indeed fortunate that the images really are strong enough to breakthrough.
5.0 out of 5 stars Personal Exorcism from middle England 6 Jun 2011
By nerose - Published on Amazon.com
A terrific book by Scalo/Billingham. The images of his family are unforgettable, and Billingham is one of those rare souls that comes through from the 'underclass' every decade to fly high. Apparently he took these originally as painting studies, (suffering like many from the naive delusion that a painting is 'real art', photography is lesser) but the intimacy and tragedy of it all burns through. I find the book design good, though I don't care for the cover myself.

It seems a personal exorcism of sorts - Billingham coming to terms with who/what/where he came from. Did he really know what he was doing? Probably not, but that doesn't matter. The work owes quite a bit to that school of British Color Documentary Photography from the 1980's-90's, started by Paul Graham (Beyond Caring, A1) and Martin Parr (New Brighton) etc. Though whether Billingham appreciated the legacy, is questionable.

Since then his work has fizzled and got much less interesting. Galleries and museums now publish books of his random images from around the world, or catalogs with video stills, none of which is even close to this work. But who cares? We have Ray's a Laugh, and its right up there as a great photo book.
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