In November 2009, like adventurers from American mythology, New York based photography team BJ and Richeille Formento lit out for the territory.
Hauling the silver Airstream trailer which would serve as living quarters, make up room and wardrobe for the next five months, they embarked on an epic road trip which would take them across 25 states as they recreated their singular interpretation of a great nation and its people sliding toward recession.
The results of this epic road trip are here to be enjoyed, admired – and considered. This extraordinary collection, which draws upon the legacy of classic American cinema as much as it references the haunting characters and locations of Edward Hopper, is the realization of the combined visions of BJ and Richeille Formento – through you may also detect stylistic nuances of late 20th century iconic photographers such as Cindy Sherman, or Mary Ellen Mark and Annie Leibovitz, both of whom BJ assisted earlier in his career.
The technique this husband and wife team employed to shoot these pictures is as adventurous as the images themselves. Locations were scouted en route and the subjects they photographed were women often encountered on the same day that the image was created. The heroines of these powerful, edgy photographs may be strong or intensely vulnerable and often are frozen at one of life’s decisive moments. They are, to borrow Diane Arbus’s quote, fictional characters looking for their stories.
The isolation of many of these characters and the flash-lit locations which hint at a Hopper like brooding mystery beyond the pool of light may suggest the precariousness of present days, when people are, as BJ Formento comments, “losing homes, losing their families. I wanted our work to show that.”
Circumstance captures America in uncertain times, both culturally and economically. Resonances from lost golden ages abound in these evocative, nourish creations: buildings in decay, neon sign abandoned in the desert, women ‘all dressed up with nowhere to go’. There’s real sympathy and understanding here and an elegiac mournfulness for days of splendor that have proved as transient as the paintwork on some of the Formento’s settings.
BJ Formento was born in Hawaii and grew up in the Philippines. After receiving his BFA in Photography from the Academy of Arts University in California, he moved to New York and assisted Richard Avedon and Mary Ellen Mark, Annie Leibovitz and studied with Eugene Richards and Arnold Newman. Since 2001, he has shot for a host of publications and advertising clients, while continuing his personal work. Richeille Formento was born in London and attended the prestigious Central St Martins College of Art before working as an art director and designer in the fashion industry.
This has been a breakthrough year for Formento + Formento. They were nominated top finalist to Vogues’s New Exposure Competition 2012, working with Bottega Venetta and Red Digital Camera. Vogue Italia featured their work with PhotoVogue at 10 Corso Como Gallery, Milan. Numerous exhibitions presenting their work have received positive reviews including a solo exhibition at London’s Society Club Soho and the YellowKorner Gallery, Paris this fall.