The dynamic duo of Formento & Formento comes from a commercial background—the Hawaiian-born BJ, a photographer, and the British-born Richeille, an art director and designer—and the couple has merged their talents to create two fine-art series that have gone global. “Circumstance” focuses on Americana, the resulting images being exhibited in the capitals of style—Paris, London, Berlin, New York and Shanghai. Their second series, “The Japan Diaries,” most recently exposed their sensually cinematic imagery to Hollywood at the Fahey/Klein Gallery. In December, it will be highlighted at Art Basel–Miami Beach, a mecca for the international art market.
While taking the first steps to a new series in Cuba, the Connecticut-based husband-and-wife team discussed their special connection and planned return to the Land of the Rising Sun.
DPP: Where did your concept for “The Japan Diaries” come from?
BJ: It had its roots in our childhoods. I’m a Navy brat. My dad was an amateur photographer. He always had his Minolta with him, which he had bought when he was stationed in Japan. I’d see these pictures of this soldier standing in front of these wonderful exotic locations like the Big Buddha in Kamakura and the Golden Temple in Kyoto. In the back of my head, I thought, “What cool places to visit.”
Richeille: I had a crazy fascination with Japan and always wanted to go there. I had a poster of Mount Fuji on my wall when I was a kid. I used to go to travel agencies and get their old posters. I actually added Japanese middle names to my name—Yasuko Tanako—when I was 12. My mother didn’t even know. I was so obsessed when I was a teenager that my ultimate goal was to remove my forename and surname. I had a friend of my mother’s teaching me Japanese when I was 14. She was from Japan and was married to an Englishman back in the UK. She’d show me all these pictures and magazines from Japan. Her first name was Yasuko so I took that, and I met a TV presenter named Mako Tanako, so I thought, “Yasuko Tanako, what a great combination.”
DPP: When did photography come into the picture?
Richeille: I studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design. That’s where my love of Japan came in, too. The rigid simplicity of design work. I also took photography courses while I was doing my degree. I ended up becoming an art director. I was sent to Florida in 2005 to direct a series of stock photography shoots and hired BJ for one of them.