A secret photographer

I can’t imagine there will be many more stories like this. In this social media-sullied age, we are all too keen to press our photos into the faces of friends and strangers alike.

Over 30,000 negatives discovered in Russian artist’s attic reveal a lifetime of hidden photography
Russian artist and theater critic Masha Ivashintsova (1942-2000) lived a secret life as a photographer, taking over 30,000 photographs in her lifetime without ever showing a soul. It wasn’t until years after her death in 2000 that her daughter Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan stumbled upon her vast collection of negatives while cleaning out the attic. The photographs showcase an astounding look into the inner world of Ivashintsova, while also providing a glimpse of everyday life in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) from the 1960-1999.

Ivashintosova was heavily engaged in the city’s underground poetry and photography movement, yet never showed anyone her images, poetry, or personal writing during her lifetime. Ivashintsova-Melkumyan shares a quote from one of her mother’s diary entries that hints at the reasoning behind her hidden artistic life, “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.”

“I see my mother as a genius,” explains Ivashintsova-Melkumyan, “but she never saw herself as one—and never let anybody else see her for what she really was.”

These are remarkable photos, so evocative. She reminds me of what I think was said about Magritte’s painted gentlemen, that they were ordinary people holding extraordinary secrets. Masha Ivashintsova was a world famous photographer, but kept that secret from the world until after she died.

This is a long shot

An incredible film, 2000 cast members, 3 orchestras, 1 camera, 1 continuous shot.

Directed by Alexander Sokurov in 2002, Russian Ark was filmed entirely in the Winter Palace of the Russian State Hermitage Museum using a single 96-minute steadicam shot. It’s a dreamlike reflection of 300 years of Russian history. It could be said the main character in the film is the palace itself, home to the Russian monarchs and to so much history. This could be the ark of the Russian soul, keeping it safe from harm.

The Russian Ark Trailer (2002)
A 19th century French aristocrat, notorious for his scathing memoirs about life in Russia, travels through the Russian State Hermitage Museum and encounters historical figures from the last 200+ years. Entirely filmed in the Winter Palace of the Russian State Hermitage Museum using a single 96-minute Steadicam sequence shot. The film was entered into the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

In One Breath | Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark (Making of)
Behind the scenes documentary on the filming of Russian Ark.

Russian Ark (2002) trivia
The film’s final, hypnotic dance sequence was a recreation of a 1913 gathering which marked the final ball ever held in Csarist Russia. It should be noted that the sequence was filmed in the exact same ballroom that was used in 1913, and that the room had not been used for dancing since that pre-revolutionary time.