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Jun 20

Beijing Silvermine—Miraculous Archive of the Everyday: meet the Collector

20.06.2023 | 13:00 - 18:00

You are cordially invited to a workshop introducing a unique collection of photographs revealing China’s rapid changes since the 1980s:

Come and meet the collector, Thomas Sauvin, and watch and discuss the documentary on the collection directed by Emiland Guillerme!

Beijing Silvermine ( is an archive of more than half a million negatives salvaged over the past decade from a recycling plant on the edge of Beijing. Assembled by the French collector and artist Thomas Sauvin, Beijing Silvermine offers a unique photographic portrait of the Chinese capital and the life of its inhabitants in the decades following the Cultural Revolution. It covers a period of 20 years, from the mid-1980s, when silver film started being used massively in China, to 2005, when digital photography started taking over. These 20 years are those of China’s economic opening, when people started prospering, travelling, consuming, having fun.

Our workshop will offer you first the opportunity to meet the Collector and Book Artist Thomas Sauvin who has saved these negatives from destruction. He will illustrate how he uses these photographs in order to depict the particularities of everyday life in China between the 1980s and the 2000s: how come the fridge—and no longer the vase of flowers—becomes the object of choice to pose with for a woman, why would one watch television with one’s cat once a day, and why wear the Red scarf of the Young Pioneers to one’s birthday? Why do so many homes begin to be equipped with IKEA furniture and upright pianos? How do these photos reflect a changing vision of the world, which included discos, tape recorders and a newly emerging avantgarde art scene as well as the Portrait of Mao Zedong?

We will screen, second, a documentary made on the collection in 2022 (with the help of CATS students!). Among the multitude of anonymous faces in the archive, Film Maker Emiland Guillerme spotted a family that somehow mirrors the urban middle class that will become richer in the 1990s: the Fengs—a daughter, her parents and four grandparents—have left behind 140 36-shot films, or nearly 5,000 photographs, ranging from 1990 to 2004. The little girl, born in 1984, is 6 years old in the first photo and 20 in the last. We see her blow out candles, play with dolls, learn how to read, write, count, and eventually, graduate from university. In his documentary Chine Chine—Une histoire Intime Guillerme takes this base of 5000 photographs to open up a vista into private lives in the post-Maoist Period. We will get involved in the Feng family’s family trips, their daughter’s school outings and we will see them in the heart of their homes. At MacDonald’s, at the beach or at karaoke, we share this family’s joys and doubts and in the meantime, learn a lot about Chinese everyday life between the 1980s and the present!

The event is hybrid, if interested in attending online, please register at


Thomas Sauvin (Paris): Silvermine— A Miraculous Archive of the Everyday
Emiland Guillerme (Paris) Intimate China—Chine, une histoire intime (2022)


13:00 - 18:00
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Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies (CATS)
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Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg 69115 Germany
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