Lost Souls

Overview

Lost Souls records Lena Herzog's journey into a world rarely seen by outsiders: cabinets of wonder and curiosities (Kunstkammern and Wunderkammern) that include the world's earliest medical museums, where oddities have been closely guarded for centuries.

Established in the early eighteenth century, Russia's first Kunstkammer triggered a profound debate over religious and existential questions. The Orthodox Church, faced with a collection of Cyclopes, Siamese twins, and creatures...

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Overview

Lost Souls records Lena Herzog's journey into a world rarely seen by outsiders: cabinets of wonder and curiosities (Kunstkammern and Wunderkammern) that include the world's earliest medical museums, where oddities have been closely guarded for centuries.

Established in the early eighteenth century, Russia's first Kunstkammer triggered a profound debate over religious and existential questions. The Orthodox Church, faced with a collection of Cyclopes, Siamese twins, and creatures that looked like lions or leprechauns, could not justify nature's unsuccessful attempts at human life and deemed their souls lost: they could not go to heaven, hell, or limbo—they were dead on arrival and had nowhere to go.

Herzog was granted access to the Wunderkammern around the world and has photographed the mysteries with a sense of beauty, wonder, and tenderness. Her subjects are mostly infants born with genetic defects that prevented their survival, and although they have been preserved as scientific specimens—some for hundreds of years—they are profoundly transformed through Herzog's lens into beings that mirror our own fears and existential dilemmas.

Herzog follows this portrait gallery of sorrows with images of the skeletons and bones of various creatures—both warm- and cold-blooded—and continues the journey with views of some of the unusual subjects on display in the curiosity cabinets. The final section, "The Mice Orchestra, or The Rhapsody of Death," shows a diabolically witty scene, an actual nineteenth-century installation from the Anatomical Museum of Leiden University Medical Center, which has been hidden in the museum's storage for years.

Herzog uses a combination of unique processes for developing her negatives and printing her photographs, resulting in images with tonal subtleties, palpable textures, and superb clarity and resonance. This book reproduces the prints that Herzog exhibited at the International Center of Photography in New York in 2010.

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Editorial Reviews

Kathryn Harrison
If her theme is macabre, Herzog's vision is vigorously redemptive, reanimating flesh with light, surrounding faces with incandescent auras. Even as it exposes them, light seems to emanate from some of the specimens, as if a transubstantiation had occurred; Herzog exalts what Christian church authorities once condemned as an unholy practice, conveying something close to ecstasy. While she cannot pose her subjects, she casts them in blatant religious iconography. Light refracted through liquid splashes halos on faces, and captures one in the attitude of supplication. In these photographs illumination is so pure and radiant it recalls the paintings of Caravaggio, velvety blacks and glowing whites joined in dramatic chiaroscuro.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780982590805
  • Publisher: de.MO
  • Publication date: 5/1/2010
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Lena Herzog: Lena Herzog is the author of several books of photography (Tauromaquia, Flamenco and Pilgrims). Her portfolios appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Paris Review, and Harper’s among other publications and have been exhibited in Europe and in the United States. Her new monograph Lost Souls is published in conjunction with the exhibition at the International Center of Photography.

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