Grande Maison


In Interview Formento + Formento

Formento+Formento are what you’d call a ‘power couple’; not merely in the romantic sense, but in terms of the photographic arts. Since their holy union in 2005, Richeille and BJ have combined their respective aesthetic ingenuity to become the dynamic photographer duo they are today. “BJ is the light, Richeille the pigment.” says their online portfolio, but both are 100% style.

Richeille and BJ met through their work, Richeille as an art director, BJ as a photographer, but truth be told since their two lives became one, so too did their disciplines. Richeille can spend hours behind the camera while BJ works on styling and mood, and they’re just as comfortable the other way around - learning from each other, and getting inspired through an harmonious unity that transcends just their 14 years of marriage.

BJ was introduced to photography at an early age by his father. Growing up in the Philippines, he moved to California at the age of 14 to pursue Fine Art photography, but, as with partner Richeille, found that it was commercial photography which : the bills. Richeille came from stock and fashion photography backgrounds, but both found their true calling when they met. Richeille decided to move further towards Fine Art, utilising her long-time inspirations David Bowie, 40s Swing, pre-Raphaelite paintings and Bauhaus architecture, a veritable smorgasbord of strong iconography and styles.

BJ, now with Richeille’s long-established commercial expertise and eye for fashion on his side, was able to ditch the commercial photography in favour of his Fine Art passion. And Formento+Formento was born. Today they’re travelling around the globe, receiving high acclaim for solo shows in Miami, Paris, New York and Shanghai, and working to bring the glamorous heroines and vintage worlds of their photographs to new and distant lands.

Their fascinating fictions, the scenes in their photographs, may be make believe but they also hold a lot of truth and tell great stories about the American woman in modern and retro societies. 2012 saw the publication of their first book, a coffee table classic five years on.

GM Your profession?
BJ Photographer and Director
Richeille Art director and Stylist

GM Which year were you born in?
BJ 1964

GM Where did you grow up?
BJ Philippines, and then California
Richeille East end of London

GM Who gave you your name? Does your name have any special meaning?
BJ You need to buy me a few drinks first.
Richeille As far as I have been told, my name is my father’s and mother’s names put together. I also spelt it wrong all my life until I applied for a passport and finally saw my birth certificate! I continue to spell it the wrong way!

GM What is your favorite music?
BJ Folk Rock
Richeille I love old classics, depending on my mood and project. 1940s for swing and jazz, 1970s for Motown and funk, late 70s and early 80s for alternative and new wave. I have been a lifelong fan of David Bowie, his alternative vision on the world and creative processes continue to inspire me.

GM What is the most inspiring artwork for you?
BJ I do love Hieronymus Bosch’s deep insight into humanity's desires and deepest fears. I also like the way Jeff Wall’s staged photographs refer to the history of art and philosophical problems of representation. Another inspiring form of art is Philip Lorca-Dicorcia’s carefully planned staging, as he takes everyday occurrences beyond the realm of banality, inspire in his picture's spectators an awareness of the psychology and emotion contained in real-life situations.
Richeille I have always been drawn to the romanticism of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and their depiction of simple, rather than grand, subjects with a serious and moralistic theme. The use of white to give luminosity and symbolism was very important. Ophelia resonates with me, I remember it well from childhood visits to the Tate gallery. In contrast, I am inspired by the cleanliness of the Bauhaus movement, the simplicity and graphic nature led me to study Graphic design and gave me a critical eye of lines and composition, I think a combination of the two schools could represent my ideal world.

GM What is your favourite number and why? 
BJ As well as representing the day I was born, 6-2-9 are my lucky roulette numbers.
Richeille It has always been 3, though nowadays I also like 8 because the number itself is like two threes mirroring each other, perhaps in my mind it represents two people facing.

GM Do you have any heroes, heroines and icons you admire? If so who and why? 
BJ It would have to be my wife Richeille. I am constantly in awe on how she approaches projects and life in general. How meticulous she is, a perfectionist in the very sense of the word but also loose and open to her instinct. But most important of all, her loving and caring qualities and am grateful that I get to live this life with her.
Richeille Well going back to music, it would be David Bowie. He managed to reinvent himself continuously, keeping people interested in his creative presentation and leading style and as an innovative figure. He has touched and inspired so many.

GM What is your earliest childhood memory?
BJ Shafts of light and wafting smoke.
Richeille One of my first early memories is standing by a wall on my way to my first day of school. That vision is strong for me because it was the first time I remember observing creative visual Patterns in the floor cracks, and the texture of the wall behind me on my fingers.

GM What inspires you?
BJ I like to dip into my reservoir of dreams, fears, hopes and my past. I love art that creates a powerful link between reality, fantasy and desire.
Richeille For me it is observing the smaller things in life that touch you the most. Sometimes it is not the loudest or the brightest, but the mere nuances. I love to take those and use them as inspiration and ideas to leave small messages or questions in my work.The world moves fast and often we miss the little details that beg the questions or make us who we are. I think what inspires you is what drives you as an individual.

GM Who influences you? 
BJ Richeille has a major influence on me as well as masters of photography, independent filmmakers, all musicians and artists.
Richeille It varies day to day, but big influencers are timeless people who have stood the test of time and are still relevant today.

GM What do you feel you would like to achieve in life?
BJ I would be happy to leave this chapter with a body of work that inspires future generations, having produced work that is timeless and elevating photography. In a lot of ways, I have already achieved it. I have already discovered why I was born.
Richeille See the answer above.

GM If you were ever interested in building your own house, where you would want to build it, and what material it would be made out of, and would you ever want to paint it? Would you want it to be made of wood or concrete, glass or water? What color would you paint it?
BJ It would be very zen, very layered and open. A mixture between atomic mid-century with Japanese influence. As for colour, it would be very desaturated and blend in with its environment.
Richeille That question is a tough one! As creative people, our visual likes change all the time. I think aesthetically I am drawn to the natural state, and this is why the Japanese traditional design - the use of natural elements and being able to combine and bend those to enhance their natural beauty – never ceases to intrigue me. Tail Ando and his ‘Haiku’ effect spatial circulation while maintaining the appearance of simplicity. Corbusier used natural concrete by integrating steel and freeing the design by not needing walls - allowing flow and open space. The use of long horizontal windows allowed even light, and because of this strength you could have a garden on the roof and enjoy the sunlight to its best. My ultimate house would be a combination of these elements with pieces from the 30s to highlight the radical use in design and combined arts

GM What is your favorite hairstyle?
BJ One length and out of my face when I am shooting.
Richeille The five point bob by Vidal Sassoon.

GM And what is your daily beauty routine?
BJ A routine I wish I started in my 20s: Yoga, swimming, scrubber, toner and anti-aging serum!
Richeille I am not very strict or into this! but I follow some sort of routine by moisturizing day and night with an SPF moisturizer.

GM And does Life imitate art far more than art imitates Life?
BJ Life definitely imitates Art.
Richeille In the natural forms visible in everyday life such as a crack in the pavement or the way the light falls on a particular place – these are just a few examples for the inspiration to create art. Life is about how you feel, and art can make you feel they are the same thing.

Editorial written by Oisin Fogarty Graveson Interview by Astrid Al-Abadi