North Hempstead Town officials say Jorge Escoto, a 16-year-old Herricks High School sophomore, has a gift worth putting into focus.
His amateur photography is being featured in the "Winter Solstice Exhibit," hosted by Clark Botanic Garden in Albertson through Jan. 25, in what officials said may be the first exhibit of a student's work in a town building.
Supervisor Judi Bosworth said she is unaware of the photographic work of a single local student being displayed in a town public building. Several of Escoto's photographs appear in this month's Popular Photography, a national magazine.
Bosworth and other officials said Escoto's images deserve a special spotlight.
"He sees things through his eyes, and when we see it [the resulting photographs], it's just amazing," said Councilman Peter Zuckerman, who told Bosworth about Escoto.
The Manhasset teen just this year got a camera and began taking photography lessons at school.
"I started taking pictures in the summer when my aunt got me my first camera," Escoto said during an interview last week as he prepared for the exhibit.
Norma Escoto of Manhasset said her nephew "became interested because I was taking pictures. I told my husband he [Jorge] wants a camera, but I didn't want him to touch mine," she chuckled. "He always took nice photos on his cellphone."
After Norma Escoto bought Jorge a Nikon D-3200, he hardly put it down.
"He is very strong," said Jennifer Cavaluzzo, Escoto's Photo 1 teacher. "He comes in free periods, and for one project they were supposed to do one roll of film, and he did three. He's very serious about this."
Escoto snapped most of the exhibit's featured photos around North Hempstead since October. They include abstracts and images of nature captured at the botanic garden.
The exhibit, which opened Saturday, is concentrated in the first floor library of the Clark House, the main building on the botanic garden property.
Escoto said he finds photography "very relaxing."
"When I've had a lot of homework, it's nice to go out and see different things," he said.
One of his favorite photographs is of an array of colorful M&M's that he laid on black paper, covered with glass that he then sprinkled with eye drops. The images appear to be floating in space.
"His eye is just a little different," said John Darcy, North Hempstead's deputy commissioner of parks and recreation, who learned about Escoto's work when the teen volunteered at Clark Garden in October for school credit. Darcy told Zuckerman, who spoke to Bosworth. All agreed Escoto's photography needed to be seen by the public.
The Clark Garden House is at 193 I.U. Willets Rd. The exhibit is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.