Student Spotlight: Teen honors grandmother, helps others with photos

Alta Fox. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)Alta Fox. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

Focusing on her future

BY REBECCA ISENHART
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — If you see Niskayuna High School senior Alta Fox, you’re likely standing in the crosshairs of her camera lens. It’s always been that way: as a young girl, Fox and her older brother, Liam, would run through disposable cameras trying to freeze the exact moment they were airborne while jumping on the bed. Later, around middle school, Fox’s mother purchased a digital camera for the first time, and she was hooked.

“When my mom got a little point-and-shoot, I would take a lot of photos during vacation,” she said.

During one summer trip to Cape Cod, Fox and her aunt took a photography class along the beaches. Most of the other participants had more expensive, hefty digital SLR cameras with fine controls and detachable lenses, but Fox was undeterred. She kept practicing, and in eighth grade, her grandmother helped her buy her very own D-SLR, a Canon Rebel T3.

“She’s always so excited about what I’m doing,” Fox said of her grandmother, Dolores Ziac.

Fox said she photographs anything and everything that catches her eye. She’s inspired by Kevin Meredith, a British photographer whose minimalist eye and creative angles she often applies to her own work.

“I think about composition,” Fox said. “I mainly follow the rule of thirds.”

This photo, entitled Stelae, has won multiple local and regional awards for Fox. (Photo provided)

This photo, entitled Stelae, has won multiple local and regional awards for Fox. (Photo provided)

She considers interesting subjects, careful lighting and artful framing while she works. Though she’s been developing her eye since she was young, Fox said photography classes at Niskayuna High School with her teacher, Stephen Honicki, have caused her to grow tremendously.

“It’s broadened my perspective,” she said.

And it’s not just the teacher she learns from; her classmates, too, have expanded her artistic horizons.

“If we were to take a photo of the same thing, it would turn out differently for each of us,” she said.

Of course, not everyone who likes to snap the shutter on a camera lens is talented, but Fox appears to be pretty good at what she does. She’s won several regional contests, and even a statewide one that brought her to the Sheraton-Hilton Hotel in New York’s Times Square for her first-ever showing. That award was for a photo of a jellyfish.

Photography has been a constant for Fox through good times and bad. Not long ago, Ziac died of lung cancer, and Fox’s way of honoring and connecting with her beloved grandmother’s memory has been intertwined with her artistic passion for photography.

“Her home was full of old cameras because her husband liked them,” Fox said.

She kept the cameras, though she hasn’t started to test them out to see whether they work.

A portrait by Alta Fox, taken as part of her Relay for Life fundraiser project. (Photo provided)

A portrait by Alta Fox, taken as part of her Relay for Life fundraiser project. (Photo provided)

She also kept her grandmother’s memory close by offering portrait sessions to raise money for the American Cancer Society as part of her work with Niskayuna High School’s annual Relay for Life. She asks $10 for a 30-minute portrait session, though her clients often pay more.

Fox explained her mission to her peers in a March 27 article in the student-produced Warrior Magazine.

“The more money that is raised, the more ACS is able to provide makeup classes and wigs for individuals experiencing hair loss and skin changes, transportation and accommodations for people traveling to receive cancer treatments, and support groups for cancer patients and their friends and families,” she wrote.

She hopes to raise at least $250 before the event Friday, June 19, at the high school. In the past, she has also raised money at the event by setting up a photo booth where visitors could drop by and have silly photos taken for a small donation.

Alongside her love for photography, Fox is also invested in German language classes at the high school, as well as German Club. In college, she hopes to pursue a major in German and a minor in photography. Fox said she hasn’t chosen yet, but she especially likes the opportunities available to her at Northeastern University in Boston.

As for a career, she hopes to pass along the perspective she’s gained during her classes in both German and photography.

“I like the idea of being a teacher,” she said. “A good teacher makes me really passionate about the subject.”

A career in teaching, like her art, would allow Fox to share with others the things she loves about language, creating images and helping others.

“I think that’s sort of what photographers do, show people how they see the world,” she said.