Capturing the essence of working class Britain on screen

Twenty years after catapulting onto the art scene with candid portraits of his working class family, Richard Billingham revisits his childhood with new feature film

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Richard Billingham
Copyright Richard Billingham, courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London

After ditching painting for photography as a means to an end of capturing his fidgety, alcoholic father for a reference instead of forcing him to sit for a lengthy portrait, Richard Billingham found himself falling into photography somewhat coincidentally.

However, twenty years after first capturing his working class family’s lives and after his photo book Ray’s a Laugh catapulted his West Midland council estate into the gaze of the fine art world, Billingham is simultaneously revisiting the subject of his family and taking on his first feature film, entitled “RAY & LIZ”.

“I want to portray my childhood as it was, without any of those stereotypes or clichés that you find. I think by reconstructing my memories as authentically as I can I’ll get past that and hopefully make something truthful,” says Billingham of his aims for the project.

The photographer communicates that despite having the idea for the film for a long time, he held back putting any wheels in motion due to the fact the photographer wanted to secure the perfect team to do his family's story justice. Casting reality tv series Benefit Street’s White Dee to play his mum Liz, Billingham strived to produce a cast who could fully understand the characters positions and context in which the story exists, “it needed to feel like everybody was from the same area. The work’s personal, so you want somebody you can trust, in fact, you need people that you can trust that are sympathetic to the vision.”

Fundraising in part through Kickstarter, a platform that has undisputedly opened up opportunities for working class artists, Billingham, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t feel too pessimistic how Government cuts and a Tory lead country will impact the art world. “I think art will always survive. The problem is why would you make cuts to something that make money? It doesn’t make sense does it?” he says.

More information on RAY & LIZ and the supporting Kickstarter can be found here

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