Ohio University

VisCom students aid, learn during National Geographic photo assignment

Published: September 15, 2020 Author: Jalyn Bolyard

Two Ohio University School of Visual Communication (VisCom) students got a chance to work with renowned photographer Paolo Verzone during a National Geographic Magazine photo assignment with Dr. Lawrence Witmer in March. 

Current seniors Madeleine Hordinski and Alie Skowronski heard about the opportunity after Witmer reached out to VisCom professors to see if they knew of any students that would be available to assist Verzone as “PAs” (photography assistants). 

Hordinski and Skowronski at the time were president and vice president, respectively, of the Ohio University student chapter of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPAOU). The offer went to the board to see if any of them would be interested. 

Both jumped at the opportunity and emailed Witmer to be a part of the experience, as it was a perfect fit for them as photojournalism students also double majoring in science backgrounds; Skowronski with marine biology and Hordinski with anthropology

“We both have that foundational science background along with the photojournalism, so for us to be able to see how both of those things can be combined to create a project, I really cherish that,” Skowronski said. 

The two helped out on separate days of the assignment and both really enjoyed learning about Witmer’s research and Verzone’s innovative photography style. 

Madeleine Hordinski
OHIO student Madeleine Hordinski (back) helping photographer Paolo Verzone and his assistant Massimo Nicolaci set up lighting for a photograph. Photo Credit: Larry Witmer

“Paolo was very kind and incredibly inventive in his work,” Hordinski said. “I really enjoyed learning from him because he was super passionate and imaginative.”

The two have fond memories of the day, from watching Verzone use different lighting techniques, examining Witmer’s specimens in his lab, to seeing a CT scan of a frozen crocodile. 

“I remember that day vividly because it was so fast-paced and exciting. I learned so much from Paolo and his assistant Massimo Nicolaci,” Hordinski said, recalling how watching Verzone interact with Witmer and crew with consideration but also determination inspired her to work more intensely and creatively when practicing portraiture. 

“Even though it was crazy and there was so much stuff going on, he always tried to make sure that he was incorporating a learning aspect for us. He’d stop and say ‘OK, here’s why I’m doing this’ while he would also be in the middle of photographing,” Skowronski said. “It was really cool to see somebody working for such a renowned organization and still have core beliefs of giving back to students.”