Serge Sorokko Gallery Debuts Rare Collection Of Working Girl Photographs

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ssgPhoto Credit: Serge Sorokko Gallery

Serge Sorokko Gallery has opened its latest exhibition, a rare, never-before-seen collection of photographs from art historian Robert Flynn Johnson’s new book, Working Girls. The show, which is titled Working Girls: An American Brothel Circa 1892, features images taken by American photographer William I. Goldman. It’s an exclusive glimpse at what life was like for a woman who worked at an upscale brothel in Reading, PA in the late 1800s.

A working girl image from the exhibit
A working girl image from the exhibit

Photo Credit: William Goldman

Johnson discovered the images 15 years ago at a vintage paper fair in Concord. He was fascinated by the Degas-like pictures and shared the shots with Serge and his wife, Tatiana. “Robert is a talented author, brilliant curator and a dear friend. When he reached out to me almost 15 years ago regarding these striking photographs of unnamed women, I knew immediately he must have come across something extraordinary,” Serge told Haute Living via email.

Johnson's book
Johnson’s book

“You hear from time to time of real treasures people find at flea-markets or garage sales, like an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, or an old painting that turns out to be a Rembrandt. William Goldman’s secret nineteenth-century photographs—sensuous, daring, historically important, and just plain gorgeous—were such a treasure. It was an extraordinary find.”

Tatiana Sorokko
Tatiana Sorokko

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

The exhibit is 25 distinct images, for which there are no known negatives. 20 of the pictures have never been seen before and five are in Johnson’s book. The provocative and insightful pictures present insight into what it was like to be a female during that time. Tatiana appreciates the images for their peek at the fashion of the 1890s. “Apart from the formidable artistic significance, what intrigued me most when I first saw Goldman’s remarkable secret photographs, was the images’ instantly recognizable fashion angle,” she said to Haute Living. “Dresses, chemises, hats, and especially stockings and undergarments that the women are wearing, tell a gripping story of clothes as instruments of seduction. Through various stages of undress portrayed in these fascinating photographs, we get a rare glimpse at elaborate, titillating, and often extravagant nineteenth-century lingerie.”

“Working Girls: An American Brothel Circa 1892” is on view at the Serge Sorokko Gallery from now until December 9. 

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