'Of course, I knew that my mother was taking pictures all along. What was striking is that she never shared her works with anyone, not even her family.'
You truly come to know a person when you find out more about their interests and the activities that they're passionate about. One thing is what we do for work, and another, what we do for ourselves. You've probably heard about friends, relatives, or coworkers who DJ on the weekends, draw, cook, or write amazing stuff on their time off. We all like doing something that satisfies our creative and artistic personality, but what if you were amazingly good at it? I’m talking about expert-level quality material, something others would really admire and even pay for. Would you keep it hidden? Your answer is probably no, but the truth is, some people don't wish to share their talent to the world. They prefer to avoid criticism, and feel embarrassed when their activities are exposed. The hobby of woman whose talent could have turned her into a famous photographer, was kept hidden away from the public eye in her attic during her entire life, until her daughter found it and decided to show it time after she had passed away. These are Masha Ivashintsova's secret photographs.
Ivashintsova was a talented photographer who lived in Leningrad, USSR (now known as Saint Petersburg). She captured everyday moments from people's lives, nature, and urban life with her Leica and Rolleiflex cameras. Between 1960 and 1999 she wrote in her diary about her activities, poetry, and love affairs – especially with a man named Boris, the one who gave her the Leica. Her daughter and son-in-law discovered over 30 thousand photographs, most of them undeveloped film, when she died in 2000 at the age of 58 due to cancer. Now, her daughter wants the world to remember her as the talented photograph she was, by sharing the secret images her mom kept hidden. Her daughter explained the following:
She hoarded her photo-films 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 after her death in 2000. Until recently. Until my husband and I stumbled across the films, whilst undergoing a renovation and developed some of them. What we saw was astounding.
Staraya Russa, 1976.
Ivashintsova lived during the Soviet regime, which imposed communist rule on all citizens. When she showed symptoms of mental health problems, she lost her theater job and had to be interned in a mental hospital, since the law considered unemployment to be illegal. According to Ivashintsova’s daughter, her mom belonged to Leningrad's poetry and photography underground movement. She was loved by three geniuses working at the time: photographer Boris Smelov, poet Viktor Krivulin, and Linguist Melvar Melkumyan, her father, but she didn’t believe she was as good as them. "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," wrote Ivashintsova on her diary.
Her style focuses on daylight exposure settings. She captured a low-light image here and there, but her main subjects were portraits of people smiling and going about their everyday life in Leningrad. She also captured landscapes, animals, and objects typical of the nation. In her pictures, you can admire the abundant white snow covering landmarks, the distinctive Russian winter attire, and the many joyful faces of children. She could have been a renowned photojournalist in life, but she never thought of herself as skilled.
Out of all the photographs taken by Ivashintsova, only a few have been developed. Her family is still working on scanning and developing all the remaining film. They launched a website and and an Instagram account, in the hopes that her story will “echo in the souls of many.” As you scroll through the photographs on the website, there are small captions for each picture, written by her daughter, based on her mother's diary and memories. Although no purchase has been made, the family members are hoping to have a gallery do an exhibition of Ivashintsova's works. You can follow them on social media for more updates.
Photos by: @masha_ivashintsova
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