August 24th, 2011

ICP Director Willis Hartshorn to Step Down

Willis “Buzz” Hartshorn, director of the International Center of Photography since 1994, confirmed today that he will leave his position as soon as his replacement is hired. Hartshorn, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, says he is leaving his role at ICP for health reasons. The board of trustees announced his decision publicly in a press release issued this morning. The board has formed a search committee and hired an executive search firm to find his successor.

Hartshorn told The New York Times that he first informed the board of his diagnosis five years ago, and they asked him to stay on. Now 60, Hartshorn said, “I’m seven years into this thing, and I can feel the difference physically.” He also said, “It’s not fair to them [the ICP staff and trustees] and the best thing for me and my family is that I pace myself in an appropriate way.”

In an email he sent to donors and supporters yesterday in advance of the museum’s press release, Hartshorn said he plans to “transition to a different role at ICP.” He had recently begun a strategic planning initiative for ICP.

Hartshorn was named the director in 1994, succeeding the museum’s founder, photographer Cornell Capa.  During Hartshorn’s tenure, the museum moved from its historic building on E 94th Street to its current location in midtown, across the street from the campus of the ICP school. Hartshorn also lead the capital campaign which raised more than $20 million to fund the move and the renovation of the facilities. In 2003, ICP held its first triennial, its survey of contemporary photography around the world. The growing stature and ambition of the museum’s exhibition schedule, permanent collection and photography school is reflected in its operating budget, which has grown from $6.5 million in 1995 to $17 million in 2010, while also balancing its budget, according to the ICP board.

“Buzz and his team have lead ICP from strength to strength throughout his 17-year tenure, from its exhibition programs, to its greatly increased endowment, to the breadth and depth of its educational programs, and the photography talent trained by ICP, to its leading position in the world of photography,” said Jeffrey A. Rosen, president of the ICP board of trustees in the statement announcing Hartshorn’s departure.

Hartshorn received his BA at the University of Rochester and his MFA in Photographic Studies from the Visual Studies Workshop/SUNY Buffalo. He worked at the George Eastman House in Rochester before he joined the staff of ICP in 1982.  Among the exhibitions he curated for the museum were “Annie Leibovitz: Photographs 1970-1990” and “Man Ray: Bazaar Years.”  He had served as the museum’s deputy director under Capa before he was named to the position of director.