Abandoned negatives, Themeless Parks: images of contemporary China in two photographic projects

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This article juxtaposes two photographic projects to illustrate ways of perceiving everyday space in contemporary China: on the one hand, ‘Silvermine Project’ (2009–2013), by French collector and editor Thomas Sauvin, recycles a vast collection of abandoned film negatives from the 1980s to the early 2000s, and subsequently ‘curates’ these amateur images into the frame of a quasi-ethnographic approach. On the other hand, Hong Kong photographer Dustin Shum’s ‘Themeless Parks’ (2008) presents a series images of public parks in Chinese cities and towns. The two projects propose different readings of the ‘postsocialist’ condition in contemporary China. While the domestic shots curated by Sauvin actively mobilise individual and national identities in private and public spaces, Shum’s compositions of shape, colour and architectural density reveal a highly orchestrated ‘China’ that pre-empts the emergence of an individual identity. This paper analyses the textual articulations of individuality, space, and temporality in the two projects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-50
Number of pages18
JournalJournal for Cultural Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2017


  • Chinese urban space
  • Chinese visual culture
  • contemporary China
  • end of history
  • Hong Kong art
  • Photography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology


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