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Through negatives, Frenchman brings 80s and 90s China back to life

Updated: 2015-02-24 07:46
By Wang Qingyun (China Daily)

Through negatives, Frenchman brings 80s and 90s China back to life

Thomas Sauvin carefully reads a piece of negative to judge the content of the photo. Zhu Xingxin / for China Daily

Women in dresses pose by refrigerators, tourists on the beach stand with the sun setting behind them and children hug a statue of Ronald McDonald.

These photos of Chinese people taken in the 80s and 90s seem like any other nostalgic holiday snaps, until Thomas Sauvin sorted, exhibited and shared them online.

The 32-year-old Frenchman who lives in Beijing has salvaged and archived discarded negatives since 2009, for his project called Beijing Silvermine.

"Negatives are something people tend to neglect, as they easily think of them as just a tool that lies between a camera and a picture. I thought it would be interesting to archive negatives," he says.

Sauvin buys discarded negatives from a man who recycles trash including discarded negatives and X-ray films.

The pair found each other online after Sauvin posted messages that said he was looking to buy kilograms of negatives. The two met in a recycling workshop near Beijing's Northern Fifth Ring Road.

"I found he had been collecting discarded negatives for 15 years. But all the negatives ended up destroyed," says Sauvin, who later persuaded the man to sell him the negatives.

Sauvin examined the negatives, picked out what he thought was interesting and scanned them into images.

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