Negatives found in the attic uncover a master photographer from the USSR

Mar 12, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Negatives found in the attic uncover a master photographer from the USSR

Mar 12, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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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.

Two girls in Vologda, USSR, 1979

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.

Leningrad, USSR, 1974 | Masha Ivashintsova with her lover, photographer Boris Smelov
Moscow, USSR, 1976 | Melvar Melkumyan with his and Mahsa’s only daughter, Asya
Masha’s lover Viktor Krivulin | Novolukoml, Byelorussian SSR, 1979

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.

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
Stalin | Leningrad, USSR, 1978

[via Radio Free Europe; lead image: a self-portrait of Masha Ivashintsova]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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4 responses to “Negatives found in the attic uncover a master photographer from the USSR”

  1. Вергунов Сергей Avatar
    Вергунов Сергей

    I remember the time. I lived in the USSR.

  2. marseillex Avatar
    marseillex

    superb photos. very poetic. a great style.

  3. Rick Avatar
    Rick

    It’s worth clicking through the photos on her website. A narrative is provided which is fairly interesting.

  4. TByte Avatar
    TByte

    I have to say, these are a cut above Vivian Maier’s.