Tompkins Square Park Arts Festival, East Village NYC 1986 Performer — Ichiro Kishimoto
Remsen Wolff was an American photographer, poet and social activist. a.k.a. Viv(ienne) Blum, Rem Wolff, Aram Wolff, Mr. Ridiculous, Die R.
Remsen Newbold Wolff (New York, April 6th 1940 - New York, August 18th 1998) was born the only son of Dr. Harold Wolff (neurologist/psychiatrist) and Isabel Bishop (painter American realist). Big shots, both of them. Remsen was a drifter and a loner, although he started taking pictures at age 10 and continued so throughout his turbulent life, it did not bring him fame. He attended Phillips Exeter and Harvard, BA Art History 1963. He married, got two daughters, converted to the Jewish religion and got divorced. He travelled extensively in the US and Europe photographing men and women alone in public places: ‘Solo Appearances’.
He has lived in many states; Texas amongst them. There he was falsely accused by the state for being a serial killer. He struggled with (sexual) identity and developed a love for transgender people. The “3rd sex”. In 1990 he started his most ambitious project “Special Girls - a celebration” enthralled by the beauty and talent of Klaus Nomi and such New York performance artists as Lypsinka and John Kelly and Amsterdam’s Dolly Bellefleur. Special Girls is a large body of work with over a 125 models from New York and Amsterdam. Containing over a 100.000 frames. He considered himself to be a “phony” or “faux transsexual” and at the last years of his life went by the name of Vivienne (Viv) Blum. These last years (s)he was troubled by depressions. Lack of enthusiasm for his/her work by the world, not feeling excepted and suffering from agoraphobia were grounds for that but the diagnosis of stomach, liver and pancreatic cancer gave a physical explanation for the tormented mind (pancreatic cancer causes depression).
He died on August, 18th 1998 in the apartment after an overdose of morphine.
He was in search of the feminine beauty of the male gaze (his mother, Isabel Bishop, was famed for her eye of portraying feminine sides of the female).
Special Girls unique importance lies in the vivid portrayal from within, of individuals who, finding themselves outside mainstream society’s rigid paradigms of sex roles and gender - look out at us with beauty, emotion and courage. As they charm, shock, amaze, they challenge us with their humanity.
“I insist on having their beauty shown”.
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© The Remsen Wolff Collection / courtesy of Jochem Brouwer, all right reserved 2019