Lei Yuxi majored in materials chemistry in college and continued to pursue her master degree in this field in the United States. She would have been working in materials chemistry for the rest of her life if she had not experienced an “accident” in 2012. While Yuxi was still in the States, she accidentally got to know about a rural children photography philanthropic program in Taiwan. Since Yuxi was also interested in philanthropy and expressing herself through the lens of a camera, she could not help but wonder whether photography could become a bridge for autistic children, who are not good at expressing themselves verbally, to communicate with the outside.
But that remained just a thought until Yuxi first got exposed to autistic people when she came back to Beijing and worked as a volunteer. Through her volunteering experience, Yuxi further believed that “photography x autism” would provide a great communicative bridge. In 2016, she announced the start of the Twinkling Photographer Project (TPP). After gathering some volunteers together, she first invited 42 photographers to participate in the first exhibition, and invited people to donate extra cameras they did not need. She then recruited and selected 45 photographers and 37 children for a four-month “one on one collaboration”. In May, she even tried a “family one on one collaboration”, in which ten groups of autistic and “normal” kids around the same age participated in photography together. Within a year, two rounds of collaboration had been completed. Kids and photographers together had produced more than 4,000 pictures, held four photography exhibitions and more than 20 offline sharing activities. In total more than a thousand individuals and over 40 professional organizations participated in the TPP, and more than 100,000 people got to know more about autistic people.
Yuxi believes that the only difference between autistic people and so-called “ordinary people” lies in our spiritual world, and that we should not marginalize the autistic group. When interviewed she also emphasized that empathy is really about mutual support, rather than coming from a moral high ground to consciously or unconsciously “care” and/or even discriminate against the vulnerable minorities around us. If you have the opportunity to attend the exhibition, the independent and rich ideas displayed by the autistic children behind the photos will surprise you.