The stunning images of photographer Fernando Bengoechea—who died tragically in a tsunami nearly two decades ago while in Sri Lanka—live on in “Woven Together,” a poignant collaboration between brothers debuting in Hudson.
By Tara Solomon
Back in the early 2000s, few fine art photographers were as influential as Fernando Bengoechea, a handsome and charismatic Argentine whose bold black-and-white images were embraced by both art world cognoscenti and the glitterati and exhibited worldwide. His “Karma Tree” series—depicting the majestic, gnarled Joshua trees of Palm Springs’ high desert—were snapped up by A-List collectors including Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Tommy Hilfiger, Naomi Campbell, Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan.
In December 2004, Bengoechea’s life was cut tragically short when a devastating tsunami struck Sri Lanka, killing 225,000 people. The Buenos Aires-born lensman was on vacation with his partner, celebrity interior designer (and Oprah Winfrey Show regular) Nate Berkus, who miraculously survived the catastrophe. Bengoechea was just 39. His body was never found.
The loss was especially hard on Bengoechea’s brother Marcelo, a creative director who worked alongside his younger brother on brand campaigns. The two often traveled together, Fernando taking his art tools with him as he worked late into the night on his “Woven Photographs”—a technique he pioneered in the late 1990s that involved cutting two identical giclée prints into narrow strips, and then weaving them together by hand to create a unique, one-of-a-kind image.
“I think it brought him calm and peace,” Marcelo says, who taught himself Fernando’s signature photo-weaving over the course of a decade to honor his brother and keep his art alive. In 2019, Marcelo established The Studio at Fernando Bengoechea in Encinitas, CA with the mission of “preserving, reviving and evolving” Fernando’s unique artistic legacy.
On September 2, “Woven Together”—the first posthumous exhibition of Fernando’s work—will have its East Coast debut at foley&cox HOME in Hudson. The works will remain on view through the end of the month.
In a poignant tribute, the exhibition will feature four new renditions of Fernando’s beloved “Karma Trees”—all hand-woven by Marcelo. “This is a collaboration between brothers,” Marcelo says proudly. “Fernando took the photos, and I did the weaving.”
In addition to the iconic “Karma Trees” series, the exhibition features Fernando’s New York Collection—black-and-white photography of New York City landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and Barney’s department store; the “Palms Collection” of serene palm trees in exotic locales such as Myanmar and Maldives; and the “Still Life Collection,” detailing pristine pineapples, seashells and other objects from nature.
The limited-edition pieces measure 51″ x 44″, with prices starting at $195. The “Karma Trees” series is available for custom orders.
“It was the perfect way to honor him,” Marcelo says of the exhibition, which debuted in Palm Springs before traveling to Hudson, followed by San Francisco. “Creating something that connects me with him inspires me and frankly keeps me going. The message is very simple: We’re all woven together through love.”
Nearly two decades after his brother’s death, Marcelo plans to visit Sri Lanka for the first time, surfing the very ocean that swept his brother away to an untimely, watery grave.
“Sri Lanka! It’s taken me 19 long years to gather the courage to go there,” Marcelo says. “I can’t wait to surf Arugam Bay and feel the ocean’s energy. I hope it fills me with some of Fernando’s positive energy, to share through woven photos. A little closure would be nice, too.”