There probably aren’t very many of us who haven’t heard of Vivian Maier, a street photographer whose work was discovered accidentally after it was sold at an auction. But she is not the only photographer whose marvelous work would be discovered only after her death.
In 2017, Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan found a dusty box of 30,000 negatives in the attic of her home in Pushkin, Saint Petersburg. They belonged to her mother, Masha Ivashintsova, who took the photos between 1960 and 1999. Masha rarely showed her work to anyone, so Asya developed the films and what she discovered was astounding. A collection of poetic, documentary, emotional and gloomy photos documenting Masha’s life, and the time in which she lived.
Masha Ivashintsova was born in 1942 and she died in 2000. As her daughter Asya writes, she and her husband found the negatives in the attic in 2017, when the house was undergoing a renovation.
According to Asya, all of the photos were taken between 1960 and 1999. Her mother Masha was heavily engaged in the Leningrad (today’s St. Petersburg) poetic and photography underground movement between the 1960s and 1980s. She had three big loves throughout her lifetime. Asya writes that they “defined her life, consumed her fully, but also tore her apart.” Her three partners were geniuses of their time, and Masha reportedly believed she was a pale figure in comparison to them. This is why she never showed her photos, poetry, and diaries to anyone during her life.
In 1981, Masha was involuntarily committed to a Soviet mental hospital for the first time. As Asya writes, she thinks she sometimes sees “a warning, a sort of premonition of coming future events in her photography.” In 2000, Masha died in her daughter’s arms after a battle with cancer.
I see my mother as a genius, but she never saw herself as one — and never let anybody else see her for what she really was.
In an attempt to pay a tribute to her mother, Asya started a website where she publishes some of Masha’s work and tells her story. I find Masha’s photos emotional and sometimes gloomy and intense. I believe her work testifies to her time, her thoughts and the strong emotions she felt. Take a look at more of the photos below and make sure to visit the website and Instagram page. There you can read more about Masha and see more of her work.
[via Radio Free Europe; lead image: a self-portrait of Masha Ivashintsova]