The Scarlet

“Sprinkling the Ashes” of a Worcester Photographer

Late Photographer David Habercom Honored in Traina Gallery

Prints tagged by students

Prints tagged by students

Isabelle Costa

Isabelle Costa

Prints tagged by students

Isabelle Costa, Contributring Writer

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On the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 19, local artists and members of the Clark community gathered on the second floor of the Traina Center for an unconventional reception featuring the work of late photographer David S. Habercom.

Clark photography professors Stephen DiRado and Frank Armstrong, both well-respected photographers and active members of the Worcester art community, planned this impromptu exhibit to find a home for Mr. Habercom’s work. Throughout the short exhibit, anyone was free to claim his pieces and collect them following the reception; after Friday the 21st, any of the prints remaining were discarded. After his sudden death at age 77 this summer, he left a prolific amount of work which was evident by the wide variety of prints that covered the walls of the second floor gallery in Traina. He also left behind a large amount of debt, and when his brother found himself at a loss for what to do with the prints, he reached out to Frank Armstrong.

 When Stephen and Frank arrived to help settle the estate, they found hundreds of prints were left in boxes at his home; Stephen and Frank could not allow these to be forgotten and thrown-away.


Stephen explained, “I believe all artists, obscure to the most famous, initially produce work with great conviction in order to be heard on some level. For it to be discarded after death is the ultimate sin.”

The purpose of this exhibit was not only to show respect for his physical work, but also to honor his life as a whole. In the Worcester community, Mr. Habercom was considered a newcomer to the art scene and sadly received little recognition for his work. In 2014, he left his career as an adjunct English professor and freelance writer to fully pursue his passion for photography in Massachusetts. At 77, he was still seen as a “young” artist, which proved very frustrating for him, and his work was not considered economically valuable. Stephen saw giving away Mr. Habercom’s work as akin to “sprinkling ashes.”

The exhibit was a success, and by September 18 most of the gallery was tagged. From dream-like color prints of interiors to honest black and white portraits, everything in the space was free to take. This was a unique opportunity for Clark students, many of which are aspiring artists themselves, to acquire professional prints completely free of charge. The photography department also received additional equipment that students will now use. As well as providing a platform for Mr. Habercom’s work, Frank Armstrong also saw this exhibit as a way to inspire young artists to work towards their passion. His exhibit showed “how hard someone will work to achieve something when they have passion…no matter what their age is.”

“You can’t do a little and expect a lot,” he remarked.

Mr. Habercom lived a humble life, but still dedicated himself fully to his work with the resources he had. He was described as a mysterious but very kind man. Worcester artist James Dye remembered his incredible empathy, particularly for his subjects, a sentiment that was echoed by attendees across the gallery. This empathetic nature is reflected in his prints; he often photographed the homeless population, but the pictures are intimate and honest rather than exploitive.  

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“Sprinkling the Ashes” of a Worcester Photographer