Richard Billingham is a photographer born in Birmingham, 1970. He first came to be known for his candid photographs of his mother and father. The photographs feature his father, an alcoholic, drinking and his mother, an overweight heavily tattooed woman, completing jigsaw puzzles. Critic Julian Stallabrass described the portraits as “what is in legend a particularly British stoicism and resilience, in the face of the tempest of modernity”.
Billingham’s intentions in taking the photographs were to be able to capture his father while he was still so he could use them as source material for paintings. However these photographs were the starting point to Billingham’s career as a photographer.
The photographs of Billingham’s family are intimate snapshots of domestic family life, the unattractive quality to the photos are endearing because they show the troubled yet human aspects to the characters that are Billingham’s family. These unassuming, unsightly moments are enhanced by the quality, or lack thereof, of Billingham’s photos. Not intended to be quality photos, the photographs were taken on cheap film so the colours are harsh and the focus bad.
I wasn’t fond of Billingham’s work when I first saw it because of my initial shallow instinct but now I appreciate how raw and honest the images are. They’re not constructed or composed to be attractive and they are nothing but honest. I like that quality to his work.