Masha Ivashintsova

Masha Ivanshintsova was a prominent member of the photography and poetry scene in Leningrad, Russia between the 1960s and 1980s.

Despite having a huge passion for photography and taking thousands of photographs herself, Masha never once shared her work with friends or family.

Reels upon reels of negatives were stored in her attic and it wasn't until her daughter Asya found them and developed them, that the public was finally able to appreciate her genius.

Writing on the official Masha Ivanshintsova website, Islya says:

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. Until recently.

Until my husband and I stumbled across the films in the attic (photographs taken between 1960−1999) whilst undergoing a renovation and developed some of them. What we saw was astounding.

Since having the photos printed, Masha's work has been seen by millions of people all over the world via the internet and social media.

The images cover a vast period in Masha's life including her relationships with three of Russia's most creative minds - the photographer Boris Smelov, the poet Viktor Krivulin and the linguist Melvar Melkumyan.

The latter of those men is Asya's father but because of her immense admiration for their talents she never felt confident enough to show her work in public, including her writing and poetry.

Masha is said to have written 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.

Sadly Masha also spent periods of her life in a USSR mental hospital which psychologically ground her down due to the drugs she was forced to take.

During her lifetime the Soviet Communist party was actively trying to "standardize" people and make them conform to communist ideals.

As Asya explains this never sat well with Masha and it is evident in her work.

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.

Masha has since be referred to as the 'Russian Vivian Maier' after the American nanny, who similarly hid her photographs from the public only to be hailed as a genius years after her death.

For Asya, she hopes that by sharing her mother's work with the world that she will finally be appreciated as the talented artist she was.

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.

We hope that works of Masha and her story will echo in the souls of many.

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