Photography can be considered as a form of storytelling. With it, you can document people — the lives they lead, capture their moments of joy and sadness, their triumphs and victories. The list just goes on. It's up to the photographer which moments to freeze in time. Masha Ivashintsova knew this too well and in her almost four decades of taking pictures, she had a lot of stories to tell.
Masha Ivashintsova was a talented photographer from Leningrad. She was involved in the underground poetic and photography movement of the 60s until the 80s. It is there where she met and got romantically involved with photographer Boris Smelov, poet Viktor Krivulin, and linguist Melvar Melkumyan. These three were more than just companions for Masha, they were in part the reason why her photographs are just surfacing now. Somehow, she felt that her artistic work with the camera were of little merit compared to the contributions of these men in her life that's why she hid her negatives instead of publishing them for all the world to see.
Now, her photographs are slowly coming out into the light. Her daughter, Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan is now publishing her late mother's work with the help of her husband Egor, and close family friends Daniil and Ksenia. Asya and her husband Egor discovered the negatives while their attic was under renovation. Call it fate or coincidence, either way, it was an astonishing moment.
What they had just discovered was 39 years worth of images that captured the many stages in Masha's life. From her early years as a photographer discovering the art form to her many experiences along the way, they were preserved in film. Masha was said to have used a Leica IIIc and a Rolleiflex camera and most of her images were shot on Svema film.
Masha's story can be easily compared to that of Vivian Maier's. The similarities are there — an unknown photographer whose work has been sitting in the dark was now found. But really there is more to it than that. Masha took these photographs until a year before her death in 2000 and the images contained and others' life stories and hers. They are intertwined, linked together in celluloid.
The comparison to Maier's story is unavoidable. That only goes to show that the idea of photography as a relate-able language is not far fetched, rather it's a shared experience. Masha understood that photography was her calling and she cherished it so much so that she treated her photographs as her diary. It was a personal thing for her — that enough was a valid reason to keep doing it even it was just for herself.
Asya along with her small team are now preparing to scan all of Masha's negatives. They are working on an exhibition that is set to open in Vienna, Austria this coming summer of 2018. If you're interested in Masha's story, you may head over to their website, and Instagram for more.
We would like to thank Asya and her team for letting us feature her late mother's work and story on the Magazine. We would also like to give special mention to Ksenia for being gracious with our queries and requests. All information and images are used with permission.