Thomas Sauvin’s ’17-18-19’ is a series comprised of images taken from a bag of negative film salvaged from a recycling plant on the outskirts of Beijing in 2010. Shot at one of the city’s detention centres between 1991 and 1993, the archive contained over 15,000 black-and-white negatives of confiscated objects, contraband, and evidence. Without any further information or context, we are left to wonder about their unidentified owners and the events to which they bear witness. Reproduced here in their original form as negatives, every item is preserved like an artefact – a fossil for our examination. The utilitarian function of the negatives thus allows compassion to arise from memory.