Tobacco-tinged wallpaper and battalions of porcelain dolls are some of the scenic tropes that connect Richard Billingham’s most acclaimed photographic work to his debut feature film, Ray & Liz. Most notably, the raw, polychromatic detail of his 1996 photobook Ray’s a Laugh (1996), which endeared international audiences to his post-industrial West Midlands home.
Speaking of his early work, Billingham comments: “It was made in a bubble. It’s got an innocence about it. Maybe one of the strengths is that innocence.”
Ray & Liz is an extension of this body of work, offering a intimate look at life in the council estate of his childhood, and saw Billingham win Best Debut Director at the British Independent Film Awards 2018.
For the latest episode in our Photographers In Focus series—which supports the cinematic release of Ray & Liz—director Jess Kohl gets up close and personal with Billingham. “Childhood is of real significance to him,” says the UK native. “It’s a consistent theme he returns to, and aims to make sense of through his work.”
Ray & Liz not only unearths, but breathes new life into his parents’ daily life, which is a recurring theme throughout his work. While touring his hometown of Cradley Heath with Kohl, Billingham expresses his desire to commit it all to screen: “It’s not like my childhood was any different from other people’s. There are lots of kids living in the same way, but I just wanted to show what the world looked like from somebody that had lived it.”
Ray & Liz opens in London and at selected cinemas across the UK from 8 March 2019 through New Wave Films.