Beijing Silvermine

Beijing Silvermine (@Beijing_Silvermine) has to be one of the most interesting Instagram accounts out there. The account is a project by the French collector and artist Thomas Sauvin who has created an archive of half a million photo negatives salvaged over the last seven years from a recycling plant on the edge of Beijing.

Beijing Silvermine offers a glimpse into the life of Chinese families decades after the Cultural Revolution. The photographs depict architecture, technology, people–anything that can have a photo taken of it is featured on Beijing Silvermine. However, what makes this project so interesting is the sheer raw exhibition of family life. While all of the photographs are of Chinese families, they clearly tell narratives that are reflective of families across the world: pain, happiness, worry–anything and everything a family has felt and experienced before. The Instagram account provides a sense of familiarity that is truly honest.

Aside from families, the photographs also depict pretty interesting situations; some of the photographs are extremely provocative and personal, while others are truly comical. My personal favorite is of a little boy standing on top of an alligator, unaware that the alligator is about to open its mouth and take a bite. Another notable photograph is of a beautiful young couple in a hospital room holding a child. The photographs truly do make you wonder: “Who was this?”, “why were they here?”, and “what happened next?”.

Beijing Silvermine is an account that does not depend on instant gratification like most social media celebrities often do. It is a truly eye-opening project that pushes individuals to further their knowledge and understanding of different parts of the world. Hopefully in 2018 Beijing Silvermine will expand to find film negatives lost across the world as a way of educating followers of family life, structure, and society across the world. Hopefully viewers will see some similarities, too.

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