New York Public Library (NYPL) Live

Lena Herzog in conversation with Lawrence Weschler

June 8, 2010


Established in the early 18th 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.

Lena Herzog was granted access to the Wunderkammern around the world and has photographed the mysteries they contain 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. Lost Souls records Lena Herzog’s journey into a world rarely seen by outsiders which includes oddities have been closely guarded for centuries. 

This event was co-sponsored by The International Center of Photography