4All American Girls at FotoFestival Naarden

The FotoFestival Naarden shows work by the American photographer Remsen Wolff (1940-1998) for the first time. Struggling with his identity and gender, Wolff photographed transvestites and transgenders in Amsterdam and New York in the 1990s. Wolff was a self- taught street and studio photographer who rarely exhibited his work. His recently discovered archive, which covers a period of forty years, contains around 200,000 images. The curators made a selection of his New York portraits:All American Girls.

 

Accused and millionaire

Wolff graduated in art history at Harvard University in 1963. He married, had two daughters, and after his divorce, he traveled extensively throughout the US and Europe. He photographed men and women in public spaces for his series Solo Appearances. In the late 1980s, the State of Texas mistakenly accused him of being a serial killer, whereupon he received compensation, making him a millionaire. This allowed him to continue to photograph without the need to sell his work.Remsen Wolff - FotoFestival Naarden

Isabel Bishop, Remsen Wolff, Dr Harold Wolff, 1950’s ©The Remsen Wolff Collection Courtesy of Jochem Brouwer 2019

Transgenders

In the 1990s, Wolff became fascinated by the beauty and talent of Klaus Nomi, the Dutch Dolly Bellefleur and the New York performance artist Lypsinka. He developed a love for transgender people and made his extensive series Special Girls – a Celebration. One of the sitters in Wolff’s photographs showcased in Naarden was a favourite model of photographer and contemporary Robert Mapplethorpe.

Wolff called himself a “phony transsexual”; in his final years he adopted the fictitious name Vivienne (Viv) Blum. These years were characterized by depression as a result of the diagnosis of metastatic cancer, his agoraphobia and not being acknowledged by the art world. Remsen Wolff died in his New York apartment after an overdose of morphine, on August 18, 1998. He left his archive to his Dutch assistant, photographer Jochem Brouwer.

Remsen Wolff - FotoFestival Naarden

Constance, New York 1992 ©The Remsen Wolff Collection Courtesy of Jochem Brouwer 2019