From Pixels to Philanthropy: Journey Through the Lens with Y9 student Aria L

Dulwich College Beijing

At Dulwich College Beijing, our mission is to empower our students to Live Worldwise. We believe that every student has the potential to make a difference. In today’s feature, we introduce our Year 9 student Aria L, who recently curated her own photo exhibition, Betelgeuse, where she also displayed her book, On the Way to Observation, aligning with her goal to leverage her photography skills for fundraising to build a space that can help preserve something often bypassed: intangible local culture. 

Inner Mongolia's starry sky offers a breathtaking view of numerous constellations Inner Mongolia's starry sky offers a breathtaking view of numerous constellations

The exhibition showcased photos taken during a photography trip to Inner Mongolia with some of her friends, where they climbed a mountain to take some photos of the stars. “It was the middle of the night, and as we gazed at the stars, we began discussing how minuscule humans are compared to the never-ending universe. It was then that we saw Betelgeuse, and I was inspired to name my exhibition after this incredible moment.”

 But there’s another reason why she’s passionate about preserving many of these genuine emotions and authentic moments, and On the Way to Observation is her love letter to moments and treasures often overlooked. “Observing the world around us can help us gain a better understanding of the reality of life and how much we take for granted,” she commented, and often enough culturally vital heritage materials fall in this category.

An aerial shot of a dry river eroded by sand and dust. An aerial shot of a dry river eroded by sand and dust.

“I’ve photographed a lot of intangible cultural heritage materials: including Guizhou birdcages, batik, embroidery, Xinjiang Yingisha knives and Xinjiang pottery. I know the charm of these folk arts and don’t want them to be lost,” she shared. As someone who regularly participates in charity events, she has experience when it comes to fundraising, which she’s done by selling some of her works for the benefit of children in the Daliang Mountains.  

Traditional pottery from XinJiang Traditional pottery from XinJiang.
Xinjiang Yingisha knife Xinjiang Yingisha knife
Guizhou batik Guizhou batik
Guizhou birdcages Guizhou birdcages

“So, I sought help from the China Siyuan Foundation, which I found out about through my close neighbour,” she recalled. “The exhibition took about 4 months from planning to curation. My exhibition raised more than US$5,000 for charity. Although it is still far from my original goal of US$13,000, I am still continuing to sell my works. Betelgeuse was my first exhibition and there will be another one soon when I come back from more adventures.”

HOME “A hand-sewn replica of the earth” HOME “A hand-sewn replica of the earth”

13-year-old Aria’s passion for photography began at the tender age of 4 with a hand-me-down point-and-shoot camera, and her first digital camera at 9. That was when she decided to attempt more professional photos, which eventually sparked her desire to preserve culture beyond photographs.

Quoting Joan Miro: “You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”

Illuminate > Deplete > Vistage Illuminate > Deplete > Vistage

“Every photograph breathes a story,” Aria said. “Create that story.” 

Michelle Joy Crowie, our Senior School Biology teacher, who was able to visit Aria’s exhibition, commended Aria on the beauty of her photographs, successfully capturing the essence of various landscapes and people in China. “Each piece evoked a myriad of emotions, leading us to engaging discussions with Aria about her photography choices and stylistic approach. The larger artworks further captivated our attention - one piece so convincingly lifelike that my leaning almost right into it prompted a burst of laughter from the other teachers, Aria, and her mother. For me, this highlighted Aria's remarkable ability to infuse life into inanimate objects through her art.”

“Aria, you've truly outdone yourself! We are incredibly proud of the exceptional young lady you are, both within and beyond the school walls.”

Paradox > Healing > Destruction Paradox > Healing > Destruction

Aria's journey, marked by her continuous commitment to philanthropy and artistic expression, positions her as an inspiring young talent making a meaningful impact both within and beyond the school community.