Ray's a Laugh

Richard Billingham



First published in 1996 to enormous acclaim, Richard Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh is one of the most significant photobooks of the turn of the twentieth century, as well as a cornerstone work of the Young British Artists generation. Formed of starkly intimate images of Billingham’s often chaotic parental home under the heavy effects of alcoholism and poverty, the book was produced in the 1990s with editors Michael Collins and Julian Germain. This new edition restores Billingham’s original vision for his deeply personal work for the first time. Including numerous unseen images and a distinct approach to sequencing inflected by Billingham’s training as a painter: it constitutes a ‘director’s cut’ and reintroduces a vital and consistently challenging work for a new era.

The publication of this new edition is accompanied by Ray’s a Laugh: A Reader, edited by Liz Jobey, which traces the book’s compelling history from Billingham’s ‘discovery’ at Sunderland University, through his Turner Prize nomination, to the present reworked edition. Purchase both books together via the drop-down menu, or purchase Ray's a Laugh: A Reader here.

Special Edition available here

Special Edition available here

Embossed linen hardcover
23.4 x 31cm, 320 pages

ISBN 978-1-915743-32-9
February 2024
€75 £60 $80

The signed edition includes a slip signed by the artist and glued into the inside back cover.

‘A landmark look at family dysfunction … from today’s vantage it looks just as bracing and uncompromising as it did when it was originally released – and perhaps even more relevant in the post-Brexit era of increasingly intractable inequality.’ The New Yorker 

‘[The new edition] is closer to Billingham’s original intention, even more full of complicated affection and disgust and black comedy and overwhelming anxiety about his family life. The flashlit shock of the original is preserved but is given depth and context in a series of previously unseen images.’ The Observer New Review

 ‘To perceive its revelation as salacious is disgraceful. Ray’s a Laugh compels us to see what is not commonly seen, and that is the most we can ask of a work of art.’ The FT Weekend Magazine 

‘[Billingham’s] intentions have remained as enigmatic as ever.’ Le Monde

‘The same stark depiction of poverty [feels] more relevant than ever.’ The Guardian 

‘The newly revised and sequenced version of Ray’s a Laugh adds weight to the work both figuratively and physically, massive as it is – and some sense of care and respect for the subjects that the first publication was missing.’ The British Journal of Photography 

‘Billingham’s lens never shied away from the bleaker side of their lives, and in doing so made Ray’s a Laugh one of the most enduring portrayals of 90s Britain.’ DAZED

‘Billingham’s work challenges the viewer to look beyond the surface, finding beauty and dignity where society often chooses not to look.’ ArtReview 

‘In Ray’s a Laugh, the artist recounts without rhetoric and with his unmistakable intellectual irony, a social context which is much more widespread than one might think, providing the international audience with a raw but desperately tender family tale.’ Lampoon Magazine 

‘[This] new edition restores the initial opus by enriching it with numerous new images.’ Polka Magazine

‘A series saturated with everyday life and things to forget.’ La Stampa 

‘The original Ray’s a Laugh didn’t help you understand his family. This version, with its sequences of Ray, with the ebb and flow of mood and space, with the melancholy and loneliness, with the longer quiet moments to offset the dysfunction, does.’ PhMuseum 

‘The scenes seem picturesque at first glance, but throughout the pages we feel tenderness and a lot of compassion for this atypical couple.’ Polka Magazine

‘There is an unconventional beauty to [Billingham’s] image making. He is a master of composition.’ Silvergrain Classics 

Featured in ‘10 compelling photo books to look out for in 2024’ DAZED

Featured in Harper’s Magazine

Shipping from Germany, unless otherwise stated

Free shipping on orders over €60

Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands

Free shipping on orders over €115

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden

Return within 14 days of receipt for a refund

View FAQs for shipping costs and further information

Have a question? Call us on +44 (0) 20 7442 2190 or email us at support@mackbooks.co.uk