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.
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.
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.
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.
This website and Masha Galleries
is an effort by my family and friends to show works of Masha to the world and to give her recognition, which is so long over-due.
We hope that works of Masha and her story will echo in the souls of many.
With warmest regards,
Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan, Masha's daughter