The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tiarnan's way with the camera.

In recent months, Tiarnan, three (though he began this when he was two) has been doing something funny in front of the camera. Whenever a camera is pointed at him, a change comes over him. He drops his childishness, and adopts a serious demeanour. His face becomes all composed and mature and he looks into the camera, with wise little eyes. It is quite astonishing to see the fullness of the change. Then, when the picture has been taken, the usual Tiarnan returns: playful, fluid, mischievous and he rushes over to see the picture.

"Can I see? Can I see?" he will demand, then will study the image at the back of the digital camera, intently.

In the image, there will be this serious little boy with the wise eyes - and Tiarnan, seeing this will be quite happy, even though this doesn't express his inherent playfulness at all. It seems that Tiarnan is image conscious and has, in mind, a particular image that he wants to portray.

There are days, however, when Tiarnan is determinedly camera shy and refuses to be photographed, at all, as if he were some big star hounded by paparazzi...he will hide from the camera, or obscure the lens. Of course, when he is in such a mood, we give up on trying to photograph him. The pity of it is, that we miss good photo opportunities, at such times.

Photographing Tiarnan is like photographing a little actor. He poses for the camera, controls his image in it, decides what he wants to portray - then does just the right things to portray it. He even monitors the results closely, checking to see if he has succeeded in putting across his "public image". On those days when he doesn't like to be photographed (which are random and have no discernible pattern), he is again behaving like an actor - only this time, one who is in a private mood and doesn't want to yield to the paparazzi. Or perhaps he is just being shy, at times, for reasons of his own.

So, we have a mix of photos of Tiarnan. In some he is putting across an image he wants to portray. So, in a sense, these are not authentically him, of that moment - they are just how he wishes to be seen. The others are ones captured when he is not in a posing mood, or is unawares: these show a wider range of expressions and behaviours and embody him more fully.

I only hope that, many years from today, we are able to tell the posed photographs from the unposed ones and see in them, glimpses of the little Tiarnan he once was. It would be a pity if we were unable to see him as he really was, and were only able to see him as he wished to be seen (though, of course, this expresses part of who he is, as well...for how he wants to be seen, is a manifestation of his own self-image).

What is notable about his photos, though, is that he has a very expressive face. There are so many different "airs" to be seen in his many different emotions, thoughts and expressions. On the evidence of this, it is telling that he poses as if he were an actor doing a publicity still, for he may just be one, one day. We will see.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:31 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My younger siblings have also adopted the "pose for camera" approach.

I'd prefer to take random photos as well (I have a few) of them doing regular things, but over the years the majority have been "posed".

Their mum is a great believer in posing for photos. When I once wanted a random photo at Dad's she said "if you want a picture, get them to line up in the hallway".

I was pleased with one photo of S12 laying on top of the sofa, while L9 sat quietly watching tv.

My main photography is nature based. Trees, areas of water, animals, plants etc.

Not really a people photographer, but thats just the way I am.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Riverman,

All artists have their preferred subjects. My wife's are people...whereas her brother's are never people. It is funny what people choose to be interested in and consumed by.

I agree with your liking for the "random" photo: it has a greater chance of capturing the truth of your family. You should make sure to get some at every age and stage of your siblings. It is easy to end up with a collection solely of posed photos...and that is a pity.

Best wishes.

11:01 PM  

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