"The pictures shown here are of my father Raymond (born 1931): my mother Elisabeth (born 1950) and my brother Jason (born 1977). Ray is a chronic alcoholic and has drunk for as long as I can remember. He has not worked since he was mode redundant from his job as a machinist around 1980. Liz very rarely drinks but she does smoke a lot of cigarettes. My younger brother still does not seem to know what he wants: he gets a job for or week or two and then leaves it. I think he is very lazy."
"I started using a camera about six years ago. I felt I needed some kind of reference material for my paintings as it is quite difficult to get people to give their time to pose for you. I was still living with my dad at the time. Ray stopped in his room almost constantly drinking and sleeping. If he went outside he become ill. He drank to get to sleep. He had a friend from a neighbouring towerblock -himself an alcoholic - who came around to make strong home-brew for him. This was much cheaper than 'buying' alcohol and meant that Ray didn't have to venture outside to the off-licence. He kept the home-brew bucket by the side of his bed for convenience and drank from a plastic jug that he would dip into the brew. It tasted as bad as it looked but it must hove nourished him somehow because he otherwise never ate. Liz wasn't living with us then: she had left due to Roy's incessant drinking and moaning. She seldom visited."
"This was all quite sad and I wanted to make paintings about it that were very moving: that would express the tragedy of it all. When I printed up those photographs (I worked in black-and-white then because it was cheaper than colour) I was apprehensive about letting on to anybody about who they were of for fear of becoming unpopular with the other students who were, I believe, all from much more financially and spiritually secure family backgrounds. I was fairly introvert as a teenager because I had always been somewhat embarrassed about the state of my family. Yet after a few months at college I realised that by letting students and, especially, tutors know who the paintings and photographs were really of I could come clean about the family history and hence relate to people naturally. This was quite a load off me and since then I think l've been taking pictures of my close family not just as reference for paintings but also as on attempt to comprehend myself and them more fully."
"I have done very little painting since graduating partly because of a lack of funds for studio space and partly because I has a supermarket job stacking shelves. Instead, I worked on the book 'Ray's a Laugh’ which was published in April. My parents and brother are very happy with the book. Neither I nor they ore shocked by its directness because we're all well-enough acquainted with having to live with poverty. After all, there are millions of other people in Britain living similarly…"
"It is certainly not my intention to shock, to offend, sensationalise, be political or whatever. Only to make work that is as spiritually meaningful as I can make it. Whatever the medium.”
Richard Billingham, May 1996