Nelli Palomäki, Justine Tjallinks, Denis Dailleux, Mark Seliger, Thomas Sauvin, Gilles Coulon, Mattia Zoppellaro and The Karma Milopp are all showing work in the Portrait(s) Photography Encounter – a festival devoted to pictures of people. Based in Vichy, France, the festival is now in its sixth year, and has been overseen this time by artistic director Fany Dupêchez.
Dailleux’s images were shot from 1987-1992, and show children based in the working class suburbs of Persan-Beaumont, Northern France; the images Sauvin is showing are also from the archives, but were taken by amateurs in China, and rescued by the French artist after the negatives were sent to the Beijing Silvermine to be melted down.
“I collect a lot of stuff, and sometimes I like to see it as raw material I could use to tell another story and do something new,” says Thomas Sauvin. Hand-colored, his project with Chinese animator Lei Lei, is a good case in point. A collection of 1168 images which have been scanned, reprinted and repainted in bright, deliberately artificial colours, it’s the opposite of the usual archive work. But it’s part of the Beijing Silvermine Archive, he says, a collection of negatives Sauvin first started up by salvaging strips from a recycling plant in the Chinese city.
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“It was very unusual. I’ve been to a few Chinese weddings, but I had never seen this before — neither had most of my Chinese friends.” As a collector and editor for the UK-based Archive of Modern Conflict, Thomas Sauvin’s pursuit of intriguing images often takes him to odd places, but when he discovered a trove of forgotten images depicting a bygone wedding ritual, even he was surprised. “I thought negatives might be an interesting trail because it’s something people tend to neglect. I got in touch with a seller specialising in recycling trash that contained silver nitrate. I bought 35mm negatives by the kilo, without knowing what I would do with them.” Confronted with this vast stack of images, Sauvin started to look for unifying qualities within the images. He found a picture of Chinese newlyweds smoking a handmade wedding bong, a gesture – apparently – of good luck for newlyweds. Struck by the incongruity, he revisited his growing cache of negatives. “I thought it was interesting because it’s related to more youthful practice in Europe. …