BJ and Richeille
Formento and Formento come out of a hybrid lineage of art and fashion. You might call them Third Picture Generation Artists. Their work conjures the sensibilities of an art film and extends it through lengthy series. Although their work is not explicit fashion, they tend to observe high fashion standards in casting, hair and makeup, which invariably injects a frisson of glamour into the scenario. Their locations and their light are first rate, giving a genuine cinematic sensibility to the photographs with big screen values, but Formento & Formento are a duo that travels light and manages to achieve soundstage quality without Hollywood budgets.
Richeille Formento a former graphics designer, styles and art directs the pictures while her husband BJ Formento lights and photographs. In their first major body of work they created a dramatic portrait of the American West, traveling in an 25 foot Airstream and finding locations and casting on the fly. In their Japan Diaries they arrived as outsiders bringing with them rich impressions accumulated from Japanese art and cinema, but possessing keen fresh eyes hungry for the exotic aesthetic contrarieties of this ancient yet ultra-modern culture.
In their work there is no resolution, only an allure that inspires longing for something strange and unknown. Everywhere there are hints of what might link these images, but the movie only happens in your head and it can be different every time. Real life happens in motion like cinema. Dreams, bounded only by the imagination, begin in stills.
Formento and Formento have come a long way in a s short time, but they have shown that they live for the journey and it will continue, leading, wherever it takes them. They are professional travelers, bringing expertise imagination and almost an alien gift for absorbing and rendering the spirit of a time and place. William S Burrougns, who loved to collaborate and who created “the cut up method” with painter Brion Gysin, said that when two minds work together they create a third mind.Here we see that two eyes can create a third eye, and everyone knows that the third eye can see through time and space, showing us the things otherwise invisible. ~Glenn O'Brien
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.
Spies, Lies and Saboteurs (2017-2019):
Our homage to the unsung heroines of WW2. 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. During the pandemic we isolated 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 mannequins courtesy of SexDolls.cum
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 sex 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) with Japan book "36", "Hysteria" and a collection of nudes in "Starkers" by Tableaux Gallery (2019) , as well a short film “The Voyage” accepted and featured at Cannes Film Festival 2016.
BJ and Richeille live and work in Connecticut with their Siamese cats.