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Formento + Formento are known for their romantic and stylish photographs that explore themes of love, loss, longing and the burden of memory. Utilising staged scenes and desaturated colours, the eerie sensuality of their style reveals a fascination with fiction and reality, and with mood and texture, where a sense of place figures prominently. Whether they are shooting in America, Europe, Cuba, Mexico, India or Japan, they blend fervent passion for photography and film with a lasting love for one another.
Under the name Formento + Formento, Richeille Formento styles and art directs, while BJ Formento lights and photographs. The images are a mutual portrait – an exchange in which the artist’s individualities blur, leaving traces on each other. Together the duo has an enthralling ability to absorb the spirit of a time and place, creating cinematic photographs, with a vision that references the past but remains contemporary and highly original.
To date, they have produced seven bodies of work, and are currently working on their new series 36 Views of Mt. Fuji. In winter of 2018 they returned to Japan but this time focused on channeling the artist Hokusai and asked the question of what Mt. Fuji means to them. We consider Japan our spirit haven and are always yearning to come back and go deeper in our exploration of the people and the landscape. This new work moved us out of the city of Tokyo and into the countryside. We wanted to live under the ever changing appearance of Mt. Fuji and experience its burning energy. Creating an ambiguous narrative with our women as they played out an imagined life under the strength of the mountain and beyond the edge of the frame.
Circumstance (2008-2010): embarking on a road trip from New York to Los Angeles, the Formento’s travelled through twenty-five states, photographing the women they found along the way, often recruited the same day as the shoot. Referencing classic American paintings and cinema, Circumstance embodies the combined American vision of both BJ and Richeille. Capturing a country during uncertain times, their dramatically lit subjects are transformed into heroines and femme fatales caught in intense moments of emotion and reflection.
Japan Diaries (2013-present): the highly staged and melodramatic images conjure many references: 1950s Japanese cinema, the photographs of Nobuyoshi Araki, Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and the erotic imagery of Ero Guro paintings. As outside observers, the Formentos’ stylized images explore the dichotomies that embody modern Japan – blurring the aesthetics between tradition and the ultra modern, fantasy and reality. The captivating tableaus exude a sense of tension, melancholy, and a quiet unease. Each image from Japan Diaries exists as if it were a still taken from a noir Japanese film, each solitary figure yearning for something unknown.
She Is Cuba (2014): In Cuba’s forbidden allure, amongst the crumbling walls of colonial architecture, the abandoned cinemas and casinos, the street of old Havana and all the glory that once was, Formento + Formento have created photographs where the radiant, bombastic Cuban woman plays the heroine. They have captured the twilight of the Castro era, the imminent change, the struggle, the anxiety and the hope.
Strange Fascinations Mexico (2015): this is a series of luscious images exploring the idea of misfortunes, tragedies, and survival – from everyday mundane accidents to the more dramatic less frequent, newsworthy catastrophes.
Another Way of Seeing India (2015): Formento’s reveal the chaos and the peace that defines the country, teetering on the fine line between the cinematic and the real.
Second Kind of Woman Thailand (2016): To confront people’s prejudices and fears and nudge them past embarrassment into acceptance of the whole spectrum of sexual preference.
Hysteria (2015-2017): This series is set post World War II, a time when America was the height of its power yet also on the verge of spinning out of control. This uncertain state represents a world we still know and are trying to find ways to contend with today.
BJ Formento was born in Hawaii and grew up in the Philippines. After attending Academy of Arts University of California, BJ Formento moved to New York training his eye by working with esteemed photographers such as Richard Avedon, Duane Michals, Mary Ellen Mark and Annie Leibovitz. London born Richeille Formento graduated with honors from Central St. Martins College of Art before working as an art director and designer.
In 2005, BJ and Richeille met while working together on a job in South Beach, Miami. They admit to love at first sight, and were married in New York City three months later.
Their work has been exhibited worldwide and is in permanent collections of International Center of Photography, Moscow Museum of Arts, Currier Museum, Boca Raton Museum, Bruce Museum, Lewben Museum and Musee Des Art Decoratif Paris. They have published “Circumstance: America Down on Bruised Knees” by YK Books (2009) as well a short film “The Voyage” shown at Cannes Film Festival 2016. BJ and Richeille live and work in Connecticut.
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Isabella Garrucho Fine Art.