Only someone with tiny hands and a small frame can pull off the up-close and low-to-the-ground photographs that fill a hallway at Wood Park Primary School in Commack.
“I like to take photos,” said Mylo Trinagel, the photographer, using speech-assistive technology as he looked through pages of his images that were organized into a portfolio. Mylo, 6, who’s on the autism spectrum and is nonverbal, developed a fascination with photography using his mom’s iPhone two years ago.
And his skills behind the lens have impressed not only his parents, Eric and Risa, but his teachers and even the Commack High School photography students who visited the photo gallery on Tuesday.
“His photos are like high school-level stuff,” said Jesus Modesto, art teacher at Mylo's school. “He’s a prodigy, and prodigies don’t come around too often.”
After discovering Mylo's love for photography as a means of expression, Modesto added photography to the school's art curriculum. Wood Park is hoping to get cameras this year so students can start taking photos of stills in the classroom or go outdoors, Modesto said.
“His pictures are very intimate,” Modesto said of Mylo's work, which has been on display outside the art classroom since December. “He positions [his subjects] in such a way that it looks like he’s interacting with them. He’s almost telling a story with his pictures.”
Mylo's subjects are mostly toy cars, Barbie dolls and LEGO pieces. Some shots are of his twin brother, Izzy, who is also on the autism spectrum, is in the same classroom as his brother and is a “phenomenal swimmer” and video gamer, his father said. Other pictures are of shoes at home or scenes he comes across while he’s out with his parents, such as a shot of the meat section at the grocery store taken from inside of a shopping cart.
“Mylo’s a stubborn boy, but I know that that stubbornness is going to help him thrive in the future,” said his father, Eric Trinagel, of Commack. “When he first started taking pictures, they were awful, but he wouldn’t stop until he got one he really liked. You look at them now, and we’re all amazed.”
High school students shared their photographs with Mylo and learned more about him during their visit. Using his speech-assistive device, Mylo told them about his love of Disney and his favorite color, which is orange.
“I think it’s really nice how he can express himself and his feelings through photography,” said Mara Estreich, a ninth grader at Commack High. “He’s nonverbal, so this is his way of communicating with the world.”
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can be detected around 2 years old, though symptoms can show up as early as 12 to 18 months old.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified one in 59 children with autism spectrum disorder in 2018, and about 40 percent of those children were nonverbal.
Mylo jumped and laughed while talking to the high schoolers. Using his device, he asked them questions, including whether they had siblings, and what their favorite color is.
“He has a lot of thoughts, and sometimes it’s really hard for him to communicate all of those thoughts,” said Trish Hall, a speech and language pathologist at the school. “This creative side to him really does give you a glimpse into how he sees the world, which I think as educators we’re always trying to figure out — what exactly are they thinking at any given moment?”