Never-seen-before negatives. Some artists don’t live long enough to experience the recognition they get. Masha Ivashintsova was one of them. This Russian artist and theater critic had been heavily engaged in the Leningrad (now, Saint Petersburg) poetic and photography underground movement of the 1960−80s. Masha loved photography as it always took a major role in her mysterious and painful life. However, she always kept her photographs hidden in her attic, never showing them even to her family. Until now.
Recently, her daughter Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan was going through her stuff and found a stunning collection of more than 30,000 images. Asya was shocked to discover how well these photos portrayed her mother’s life and the essence of everyday life in the USSR.
“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.”
The darker period of Masha’s life took place in a USSR mental hospital. There, she was gradually broken by being forced to take drugs. The Soviet Regime was aiming to ‘standardize’ people, to make them live by the Communist rules. This dehumanizing control system had a huge impact on Masha. It is also evident in her work. As her daughter says, “Masha had a difficult relationship with communism. She was eventually bulldozed by the party and committed to a mental hospital against her will for her «social sponging» as she could never assimilate to the all-encompassing, shouting world of socialist excitement.” Some people have already called Masha the ‘Russian Vivian Maier.’