BJ and Richeille
Formento + Formento are known for their inventive and stylized photography that explore the uncanny and perverse, revealing double edged allegories with underlying lyricism . Utilising conceptually playful staged scenes that are psychologically evocative, the erie sensuality of their style reveals a fascination with fiction and reality.
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 eight bodies of work, and are currently working on their new series "36". In winter of 2018 they returned to Japan, 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. Here 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.
Embarking on a 1 year road trip from New York to Los Angeles and back, the Formento's travelled through twenty-five states, photographing women they met along the way. 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):
The 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):
BJ and Richeille worked with Bangkok's Transgender community to confront people’s prejudices and fears and nudge them past embarrassment into acceptance of the whole spectrum of sexual preference.
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.
Women of Resistance: Spies, Lies and Saboteurs (2017-2019):
Our homage to the unsung heroes of WW II. Scores of female operatives trained to handle guns and explosives, organize munitions and supplies, who were often dropped behind enemy lines to fend on their own. They were military women, journalists, cooks, actresses, singers, ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times. Their stories demonstrate secrecy and disclosure, violence, power, subterfuge, surveillance and the visible versus the hidden.
Rubber Soul (Art in the time of Corona)
We look to art for clarity, and now more than ever, for refuge. Since the pandemic we isolate at home. As our environment becomes more personal and less public, we are looking to recalibrate our priorities and find ways to keep busy, to explore work that anchors us and keeps us sane during these tricky times. After the early chaos, we have been very productive and cathartic because of our creativity. Our Connecticut studio is now an extravagant mise en scene, provoking an endless kaleidoscope of self-realization with silicone love dolls.
How does desire affect our behavior? Can we find intimacy in inanimate objects? Besides companionship, our ideas delve into relationship, mental health, art form, intimacy and post human kinship. We explore our dolls from many perspectives, including philosophical and ethical.
Taking a few years to explore sentimental longing, feelings of pleasure, the wistful affection we have for the past and for a period or place.
We salvage artifacts of the past for entertainment, to calm present anxieties. We discuss the present in terms of the past, and we judge the present by the standards of long ago. Discussions of movies and television and music tend to begin with the question, “Remember when?” Those words summon happy thoughts. Or perhaps we return to the past because we are expert in it. Nostalgia waxes as the traditional understanding of time wanes. Human beings are temporal creatures. We need ways to understand and to order the past, the present, and the future. Nostalgia, most truly and most meaningfully, is the emotional experience—always momentary, always fragile—of having what you lost or never had, of seeing what you missed seeing, of meeting the people you missed knowing. Are we Nostalgic because we are unhappy with the present or are frustrated because we are so nostalgic? Through art we hope to unearth these fleeting feelings that overcome us, and to create work that connects us.
BJ Formento was born in Hawaii and grew up in the Philippines. After attending Academy of Arts University San Francisco, BJ moved to New York training his eye with esteemed photographers such as Richard Avedon, Duane Michals, MaryEllen 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. They continue to blend a fervent passion for photography with a lasting love for one another.
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, Monnaie de Paris and Citroën Museum. They have published coffee table book “Circumstance: America Down on Bruised Knees” by YK Books (2012), "36", "Hysteria" and a book of nudes "Starkers" by Tableaux Editions (2019) , as well a short film “The Voyage” shown at Cannes Film Festival 2016.
BJ and Richeille live and work in Connecticut with their 3 Siamese cats.