Tony Smoking Backwards (1998)

Richard Billingham

As you watch Tony amusing himself and his mates by performing smoke rings, an uneasy relationship with time forms, unsure whether parts of the video or its sound are playing backwards or forwards. Richard’s subjects reflect his working class roots, but the underlying issues in his work are universal: anyone from any class can get bored or develop dependencies, even if some do so with more material comfort.

The Billinghams grew up in poverty after their dad lost his factory job and began to drink heavily. Richard’s short films feature family and friends hanging out and finding ways to kill time.

Research at King’s College London asks: does heightened impulsiveness in response to boredom partly stem from people’s attempts to deal with meaninglessness when bored?

Courtesy the artist and Anthony Reynolds Gallery

About the contributor(s) 

Richard Billingham is a photographer and filmmaker. He is best known for work that portrays his close family. Exploring photographic intimacy, Billingham captures habitual behaviours that develop themes of boredom and addiction.