Little Carol was a timid child. 'She
won't play with other children,' her mother said. She looked at me with
large frightened eyes and clutched at her mother's clothes. She
withdrew into her shell as soon as she entered the studio. She backed
away from a proffered toy as if it might bite her. As long as she was
away from the blanket of security represented by the familiarity of her
home and her mother, her only desire was not to be noticed. The world
terrified her and she thought that if she kept quiet maybe she would
not get hurt. Her pre-occupation was to survive.
Most children go through a cautious phase
at some point in their development. This is usually at about two years
of age but it might be at one; but most children have grown out of it
by the time they are three. During this time, which might last a few
weeks or a few months, the child views all unfamiliar places, people
and experiences with great suspicion. When inoculations have to be
given to the child at this oversensitive stage, the effect on their
minds can be serious and long-lasting. Even a visit to the hairdresser
can be a frightening ordeal. The photographer, who has not merely to
avoid frightening them, but to win their confidence and evoke some
response, has no easy task.
With Carol, who had a cautious nature, or
with a child who is merely passing through a phase of suspicion, the
approach is much the same. Do not make any sudden moves or sounds.
Speak quietly. Then slowly and patiently try to thaw the child.
Remember that caution, frustrating though it can be, is a natural phase
of development and in years gone by was a condition of survival for the
human race. If our primeval ancestors had not been cautious they would
probably have been eaten by wild animals.
Little Carol is not faced today with the same dangers. But the feeling
survives. White-coated men stick needles in her. Strangers rush at her
and snatch her up out of the security of her cot. A door bites her
finger. Just keeping alive seems to be a full-time occupation. So treat
her gently. Let her contemplate you from a safe distance for some time
before you make any advances.