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Jan 15, 2021
Photo by Masha Ivashintsova
In St. Petersburg Russia, Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan recently stumbled upon thousands of photographs and undeveloped film rolls in the attic of their family home. They were created by her mother, Masha Ivashintsova, between 1960-1999 using a Leica IIIc and Rolleiflex on Svema film.
Like Vivian Maier's work, the photos are a time capsule of a place and time from the point of view of a female photographer focused on the act of creating photos and documenting moments. Seeing their own work, sharing the photos, or even developing their film seem to be less important motivators.
"My mother, Masha Ivashintsova, 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 my 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. As she put herself in her diary:
”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”.
Deeply unhappy following years spent in grueling conditions in a selection of the USSR’s mental hospitals as the Soviet Regime sought to standardize people and force everybody to live by the communist rules, Masha died in my arms in the year 2000 at the age of 58 after a battle with cancer.” — Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan, Masha's daughter
Photo by Masha Ivashintsova
It is exciting when a treasure trove of photos is unearthed and shared. Who knows how many more are stashed in chests and boxes in dark corners of old homes. Masha's photos are now being shared in a traveling exhibition and her daughter is releasing print editions so Masha's work can move from an attic in Russia to homes all around the world.
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