A Conversation with...

Formento + Formento

Husband-wife photography duo Richeille and BJ Formento, known professionally as Formento and Formento, knew they had found kindred spirits in one another immediately after meeting. Within three months of their first encounter, they were married and spent the next nine years together, traveling the world and making art with only one cell phone between the two of them. With a slew of photo exhibitions in Paris, London, Berlin and New York and a coffee table book to their credit, the duo have also found an avid supporter in esteemed fashion publication Vogue Italia. We caught the world travelers between trips and chatted about how they deal with creative differences, the philosophy behind their art and their best tips for hairdressers from a photographer抯 point of view

When approaching a project, what is your creative process? How do you handle creative differences?
Richeille: We share a creative visual love of things around us, and from this our ideas grow. I think our different perspectives are what make our vision unique, as we are a husband and wife team that brings both female and male aesthetics into one image. If one of us has a really unique idea that we don抰 want to compromise on, we will often shoot two versions of an image and decide later which one works best. It ends up being a great learning experience and helps our personal work grow.

How would you describe your work? Do you have a philosophy when it comes to your art?
BJ: In one word, "spontaneous." We rarely scout locations and subjects before shooting because there is a certain chemistry and magic that only happens on set, and we capitalize on that. This, in our opinion, is what separates our work. I like to call our work 揷inemagraphs since it抯 really more storytelling than anything else. We want our viewer to go on a visual trip with us. We hope you抮e excited by what抯 going on in the photographs and come back to them over and over with new stories and alternate endings.

Richeille: When creating art, it抯 important that you manage to be organic with your approach. The worst thing is to overthink a project and have it be stale before you抳e even worked on it! We love to travel, see new places and meet new people; the excitement from it fuels our creativity.

Do you think fashion photography can be considered art?
Richeille: Being a fine art photographer first and foremost gives you an advantage to understanding a brand in a more unique way. Rather than starting with the brand and then trying to mold it into a strong, unique message, you already have a unique aesthetic to work from.

BJ: All photography has the potential to be considered fine art.

You mentioned Edward Hopper and David Lynch as inspirations, what else inspires you?
BJ: Aside from travel, we also draw inspiration from everyday life. We抮e fortunate to be able to do what we love and make a living out of it. As we mature, so does the work. The wheel has already been invented, but we still look for the challenge in making fresh work that makes a strong statement.

With your extensive work in fashion, what tips do you have for hairdressers who are looking to break into editorial work?
BJ: Keep up with the trends and be aware of what抯 going on in the world. Never be afraid to go to new places and try new things. Make new connections all the time and apply that to your love and passion. People will discover you and want you to bring your energy on set.

Do you think the visual nature of your art impacts your personal style?
Richeille: I always wear black桰 guess it抯 my uniform. However, when we travel, we find ourselves influenced by the places we visit. One place that had a huge impact on both of us was Japan. Japanese people have an innate sensibility in all they do, as well as a simple, practical aesthetic and love for nature. It made us realize that being a visual magpie is fine, but you must have meaning and understanding behind what you do; otherwise, it抯 nothing more than decorative and superficial.

How do you normally wear your hair?
Richeille: My hair has been dyed black since I was 16, and I抳e had a blunt box bob all my life. BJ has had more adventurous cuts than me! It抯 definitely important for us to have great hair products since we抮e traveling all the time. Having healthy hair that抯 manageable is important and helps us feel ready to face the day with confidence.

What are you guys currently reading, watching and drinking?
Richeille: We just came back from Cuba, so anything and everything about that! I also love a good biography and bring my Earl Grey teabags wherever I travel.

BJ: I抦 reading Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer and drinking mojitos and Cuba Libres.

Are you working on any exciting upcoming projects that you can divulge?
We抮e working on "The Japan Diaries," featuring 20 women we photographed in Tokyo and Kyoto. We also just photographed 14 women in Old Havana for a project called "She is Cuba." Later this year, we plan on returning to both countries and, in the winter, we抮e going to explore India.

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