“Thomas Sauvin says he is not an artist. He is a editor, curator, collector and archivist. Since 2005, he has rescued over half a million photographic negatives that were on their way to being destroyed. Through the whole of his archive he has created an unedited portrait of a transforming post socialist China.”

(via INTERVIEW: Thomas Sauvin - “ASX Interviews Thomas Sauvin” (2013) « ASX | AMERICAN SUBURB X | Photography & CultureASX | AMERICAN SUBURB X | Photography & Culture)


Chinese Family Memories, Recycled

When Thomas Sauvin shows his work to friends in Beijing who don’t study photography, they are often surprised, and a bit confused, by the pictures he collects. To them, they are familiar — and boring.

“Sometimes people don’t expect this from photography,” he said. “They want to travel from photography. They want to see things they’ve never seen. They want to see things with a new angle.”

That is not what Mr. Sauvin is seeking. He is working on “Silvermine,” a project that looks at hundreds of thousands of negatives, mostly personal and family photos, that have been rescued from Beijing’s trash. From so many different lives, he sees the same story time and again.

He sees his work as a counterpoint to the usual – and often negative – coverage about China in the foreign press and on Chinese social media.

“It starts with birth, it ends with death,” he said of the collection. “It talks a bit about love. People go to the beach. People travel. They take blurry pictures, their negatives eventually get damaged. They are at home with posters of Marilyn Monroe. They have their photo shot with their refrigerator.”

It’s about life.