Thomas Sauvin

Thomas Sauvin is a French photo collector and curator who lives and works in China. While there, he started collecting photographic negatives, seeing them as a valuable intermediate medium between the camera and the print.

In 2009, as he was looking to purchase negatives, he came across Xiao Ma who was buying negatives in bulk online. Ma worked at a chemical recycling plant located at the edge of Beijing and was using negatives (as well as X-rays from hospitals, CDs and other trash) as a source of silver salt, which he could then separate and resell to laboratories.

Sauvin got interested in the stacks of discarded 35-mm negatives piled up at the plant. He negotiated a price of about $10 per kilogram, and he started buying 30 to 50 kilograms a month. Sauvin estimates that the collection he has now amassed has grown to somewhere near half a million images.

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