Masha Ivashintsova was out on the streets taking photographs of strangers almost every day. Street life is one of the most significant themes in her art. She wrote in her diary,
“Sometimes I just want to run in the streets and just look around [...] In these moments I feel something inside me gets a little bit stronger, I am not such a splatter anymore, I don’t feel the same weakness, not such a fear for myself. My head is rising up and my thoughts are getting clearer and more distinguished.”

In the 1960s through 1980s in the Soviet Union, unofficial photographers could be considered spies, could be arrested, and their cameras and their films could be easily confiscated. Underground Leningrad was a very close and a small group of people with the young, independent, and careless art style. This was in a stark contrast with the official Soviet propaganda photography of the time.

Ivashintsova’s street photography gives an unprecedented insight in the lives of the ordinary people behind the Iron Curtain at the time when the Cold War was at its peak. Here are laughing children playing with a dog, people laughing inside of the community train, two gentlemen having a cigarette, a young couple with a stroller—ordinary scenes which could happen anywhere at the time, be it Brooklyn, Paris, or Moscow. Ordinary but striking, as Ivashintsova’s masterful art makes Soviet people appear so familiar and so close to us, notwithstanding the time and cultural differences.

How to View

During the day, the installment can be viewed on monitors inside the ICP Museum and during evening hours, images are literally “projected” onto the windows of the ICP Museum; they can be viewed from the sidewalk outside the Museum and are most visible after sunset. Learn more about Projected.

About the Artist

Masha Ivashintsova (March 23, 1942–July 13, 2000) was a Russian photographer from Saint-Petersburg (Leningrad). She was heavily engaged in Leningrad’s underground poetry and photography movement in the 1970s and 1980s and used photography as a visual journal of her life, taking photographs from the time she was young up until one year prior to her death. Even though she was taking photographs throughout almost all her life, Ivashintsova hoarded her photo-films and negatives in the attic and rarely showed them to anyone. Deeply unhappy following years spent in grueling conditions in a selection of the USSR’s mental hospitals, she died at the age of 58. Only when her daughter, Asya, found some 30,000 negatives in their attic in 2017 did Ivashintsova's works become public.