Richard Horwitz’s photojournalism career was born of a series of right decisions made at the right time.
It was a career that took him to all 50 states and 76 countries, that traversed multiple technological paradigm shifts in the photography and media worlds, and that supplied him more than an ordinary lifetime’s worth of adventures.
Horwitz, who grew up in Illinois, planned to study astronomy in college. A high school adviser suggested he consider Indiana University. That’s when he made what he considers to be the first of his right decisions: He visited, fell in love immediately and ultimately enrolled.
Having learned to shoot photos in high school, Horwitz joined the Arbutusyearbook as a staff photographer and quickly began to dedicate more time to his work there than to his regular classes. Concurrently, he found his dreams of pursuing astronomy soured by required math courses.
His next major decision came: During his sophomore year, Horwitz spoke to department chairman John Stempel about changing his major from astronomy to journalism. It would require extra work, but it was worth it.
“I don’t know where I would be today if I had stayed in astronomy,” Horwitz said.
Horwitz also freelanced for the Associated Press, photographing sports and other assignments. After earning his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1963 and his master’s degree in education with an audiovisual communication specialization in 1964, he took a full-time job with the AP in New York City. But the big city lifestyle wasn’t for him, so when a position on the Washington photo desk opened up, he applied for it — just in time for the Watergate scandal.
In 1989, after decades of work in New York, Washington, Boston and Chicago, he became the AP’s European photo network director, a position that took him to London.
The photojournalism profession evolved significantly during Horwitz’s 27-year career. As a college student and young AP photographer, Horwitz shot his work on film and transmitted photos via wire. His final assignment with the AP was to establish a commercial picture agency using the AP satellite to deliver digital pictures to newsrooms.
Most of the job of picture editor is behind the scenes: assigning photographers, coordinating with stories, choosing pictures, writing captions and transmitting photos. Sometimes he also picked up a camera.
Horwitz said the most rewarding part of his career was always the adventures. In 1976, a cargo tanker ship broke in half and sank off Nantucket. His aerial view was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
In the midst of it all, his passion for astronomy found its place. He’s traveled to photograph a total of 15 eclipses, most notably a 1972 eclipse off the African coast and a 1979 eclipse in Canada. Both were used on the front page of The New York Times. He witnessed Apollo 11’s takeoff for the first moon landing.
And there wasn’t a mite of math involved.