In Memoriam: Former ICP Director, Willis Hartshorn

In Memoriam: Former ICP Director, Willis Hartshorn


New York, NY—Willis E. “Buzz” Hartshorn, the former ICP director (International Center of Photography, died on June 29, 2024. Hartshorn had lived with Parkinson’s disease for the past 20 years.

“Buzz Hartshorn’s leadership of ICP enhanced Cornell’s legacy and added to what ICP represents today in the education, exhibition and curation of concerned photography, which remains at the core of ICP’s mission,” commented Caryl Englander, chair of the board of ICP and Jeffrey A. Rosen, ICP board president. “Generations of talented photographers who came through our educational programs and of those who have learned from our exhibitions and collections are indebted to his contributions.”

former ipc director-Willis-Harsthorn-The-Eye-of-Photography-magazine
Willis “Buzz: Hartshorn, © The Eye of Photography Magazine

Hartshorn was a visionary leader whose dedication and passion for the photographic arts resulted in extraordinary growth in ICP’s audience, enrollment as well as financial stability. His tenure at ICP spanned more than 30 years, the last 18 years as its director.  It was marked by innovative exhibitions and educational programs that expanded the understanding and appreciation of photography.

ICP Director, Willis Hartshorn

Moreover, he began his journey with ICP as an intern, shortly after its founding 50 years ago by Cornell Capa. Capa established the philosophy of “concerned photography,” which advocated for the power of photography to effect social change. An unlikely successor to Capa, Hartshorn won the post after an international search. Capa was a larger-than-life founder, making it a challenge for any successor to assume the position. However, for Hartshorn it was with his kind and friendly demeanor, as well as his many years of experience at ICP, that tipped the scales in his favor. He also had the support of those who worked with him, including Pat Schoenfeld, who today is ICP’s longest serving board member.

Further, his ground-breaking exhibitions for young contemporary photographers and world-renowned masters alike were perfectly suited for his role as director. Among the exhibitions he curated were MAN RAY/Bazaar Years; Annie Leibovitz: Photographs 1970-1990; and Brian Weil: The AIDS Photographs.  His full-time career at ICP began in 1982 working in the exhibitions program then headed by Bill Ewing. When Ewing left in 1984, Hartshorn assumed leadership of the program.

ICP Growth

Additionally, under his leadership, ICP launched a planning project and capital campaign. It resulted in moving ICP from its founding location on East 94th Street to two separate but adjacent much larger facilities at 43rd Street and Sixth Avenue. There, Hartshorn and ICP created a new museum with 40% more space, a state-of-the-art school and an MFA program as well as provided the collection and library with museum-quality facilities and staff. former-ipc-director-new ceo-ICP_50th_Logo_Black

The exhibition department grew threefold. And a new publications program ensured that the world-class exhibitions had catalogues of equal stature.  Every division of the institution blossomed and was professionalized to the highest standards. ICP’s location today at 79 Essex Street in the Lower East Side achieved Hartshorn’s vision of reuniting the school and the museum in the same location.

After his retirement from ICP in 2012, Hartshorn resumed a focus on his own photography. In 2015, he exhibited the work at the Howard Greenberg Gallery. Titled A Fine Life, the exhibition was a reflection on his slower pace, as he was managing life with Parkinson’s.

ICP will announce a memorial service in New York City. Furthermore, contributions in Hartshorn’s memory may be made to ICP in honor of Buzz Hartshorn.