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March 15, 2018

Daughter Found a Dusty Box of 30,000 Hidden Negatives in an Attic That Uncover a Master Photographer From the USSR

“I loved without memory: is that not an epigraph to the book, which does not exist? I never had a memory for myself, but always for others.”
Like street photographer Vivian Maier, Russian photographer Masha Ivashintsova (1942-2000) photographed constantly but rarely showed her work to anyone. Only when her daughter Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan found some 30,000 negatives in their attic in late 2017 did Masha's work become public.

“Of course, I knew that my mother was taking pictures all along. What was striking is that she never shared her works with anyone, not even her family.” - Asya said of her mother's work. “She hoarded her photo-films in the attic and rarely developed them, so nobody was ever able to appreciate the fruits of her passion. Those same films remained in the attic of our house in Pushkin, Saint Petersburg, where she originally kept them, after her death in 2000.”

According to Asya, the photographs were taken between 1960−1999. Her mother was heavily engaged in the Leningrad poetic and photography underground movement of the 1960−80s. She was a lover of three geniuses of the time: photographer Boris Smelov, poet Viktor Krivulin and linguist Melvar Melkumyan, who is also her father. Her love for these three men, who could not be more different, defined her life, consumed her fully, but also tore her apart. She sincerely believed that she paled next to them and consequently never showed her photography works, her diaries and poetry to anyone during her life.

Masha passed away in 2000 in her daughter's hands at the age of 58 after a battle with cancer. Asya decided to create a website in honor of her mother and her incredible work that not only captures the everyday life of Russia but also portrays an incredible story of a unique woman searching for her place in the world.

A self-portrait of Masha Ivashintsova.

Two girls in Vologda, USSR, 1979.

Masha Ivashintsova with her lover, photographer Boris Smelov, Leningrad, USSR, 1974.

Melvar Melkumyan with his and Mahsa’s only daughter, Asya, Moscow, USSR, 1976.

Masha’s lover Viktor Krivulin, Novolukoml, Byelorussian SSR, 1979.

Nevsky Prospekt, Leningrad, USSR, 1975

Melvar Melkumyan, Moscow, USSR, 1983

Leningrad, USSR, 1977.

Asya and her dog Marta, Leningrad, USSR, 1980.

Toy store “Detsky Mir”, Dzerzhinsky Square, Moscow, USSR, 1983.

Leningrad, USSR, 1981.

Melvar Melkumyan, Moscow, USSR, 1979.

Leningrad, USSR, 1976.

Marta, Leningrad, USSR, 1978.

Village near Lake Sevan, Armenia, 1976.

Leningrad, USSR, 1978.

A ruined statue of Stalin in Leningrad, USSR, 1978.

The banks of the Neva River in Leningrad, 1979.

A cosmonaut-themed playground in Leningrad.

Street portrait in St. Petersburg, 1976.

A portrait photo of Asya in 1978.

A crowd on the outskirts of a May Day parade in Leningrad, 1979.

(Photos © Masha Ivashintsova/Masha Galleries)


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