MPCC Broken Bow Campus plans introductory camera class

The Mid-Plains Community College Broken Bow Campus will host a “Get to Know Your Camera” class from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 4.

MPCC art instructor Dik Haneline will teach the class, which will serve as an exploration into a digital camera’s functions and capabilities, according to a press release.

Instruction will cover the buttons on the camera and their functions, when to use or not use certain features when capturing images, menu items and settings and how to shoot manually to maximize capabilities. Beneficial gear and equipment will also be discussed.

Participants are asked to take either a digital single-lens reflex camera, otherwise known as a DSLR, or a mirrorless camera to use. Batteries should be charged ahead of time.

Registration can be done online at or by contacting the campus at 308-872-5259.

The course is the first in a series Haneline will teach this spring. Other upcoming classes include macro photography, wildlife images, landscapes and astrophotography.

Bloomington-raised poet, photographer talks Midwest stories for TEDx

Is ‘flyover country’ an appropriate moniker for the Midwestern U.S., or other overlooked places in the world? Through photography & poetry, this talk explores that question through inspection of the overlooked or the avoided: rust; thunderstorms; work; everyday people doing everyday things; politics; social class; et cetera.

A lifelong Midwesterner, Justin Hamm is the author of four poetry collections, two poetry chapbooks, and a book of photographs. His most recent book is Drinking Guinness With the Dead: Poems 2007-2021 (Spartan Press 2022) . . .

BLOOMINGTON — Most Midwesterners, like Justin Hamm, can say they once had childhood dreams of leaving their hometowns for somewhere “things are really happening.”

Now 42, Hamm is speaking about how he changed his perspective on life in the Midwest through the power of poetry and lens of a camera. The 1998 graduate of Normal West Community High School was featured in a TEDxOshkosh talk published Wednesday on YouTube, titled, “The American Midwest: A Story in Poems & Photographs.”

Bloomington-native Justin Hamm, in Mexico, Missouri, holds a stack of his poetry books in this provided photo from 2022. He was recently featured in a TEDxOshkosh talk.

Hamm, who mainly grew up in Bloomington, theorized before listeners in November 2022 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, that “there really is no such place as nowhere.

Everywhere is somewhere, and everywhere has a story to (it) we can uncover if you learn to use the poet’s or the photographer’s eye.”

Pushing back against negative stereotypes about the region, like the “flyover country” label, he said the Midwest has kept him artistically busy and interested. Some of the prose recited by Hamm told of the beauty of a rust, “the mysteries of barn wood” and forgetting his jockstrap for a double-header baseball game.

Read this Wednesday, June 10, 1998 file story covering a Normal West High School baseball game against Olney High School, including quotes by then-catcher Justin Hamm.

The former catcher for the Normal Wildcats chanted verses of “Until Death Do Us Part,” as photo slides showing the exterior of Keller’s Iron Skillet & Catering in Bloomington were displayed. He drew parallels in his poem “Rust — Or Perhaps Fine Art” between decay and impressionist painting.

In a Friday interview with The Pantagraph, he said he tries to take photographs that would make good poems: “Quiet little scenes that illustrate something about the region.”

Watch now: Normal West student, ‘train fanatic’ publishes book in ‘Images of Rail’ series

“Experience another life.”

Hamm explained the title of his latest poetry book, “Drinking Guinness with the Dead.” Drawing from three other previously released books, it was released in March 2022 by Spartan Press, and contains material dated between 2007 and 2021. Hamm said it also has a “book’s worth” of new poems to go with it.

He said one meaning of the title refers to having a few beverages before revising older material. It was weird reading back in time, and he didn’t seem to care or relate to it at first. But Hamm said he didn’t want that to be the case.

He said going back also made him realize he wasn’t doing enough to publicize that work.

Reflecting on his piece titled “A real team effort,” he said he hoped to capture awfully embarrassing moments of adolescence and bring them to life. Hamm said many have told him they can relate.

Poet-photographer and former Bloomington resident Justin Hamm is shown in this 2021 self-portrait.

“They get to experience another life for a while,” he said.

That teleportation also extends to his photography work. Showing stills of rusted-out cars, he said countless people have told them that model was the first they owned.

At another poetry reading and photography showing, Hamm said two farmers lectured him about why a particular style of corn crib was built in Central Illinois but not in South Dakota, because of the immigrants who settled in those regions.

Shown in this 2019 photo provided by poet and photographer Justin Hamm, formerly of Bloomington, is a Central Illinois barn.

See with different eyes

Hamm said he never left the Midwest. He said he got married and went to school in the region, and moved to Mexico, Missouri, where he currently works as a librarian for Eugene Fields Elementary School. He’s a husband to his wife Mel Hamm, and father to two daughters: Abbey, 13, and 9-year-old Sophie Hamm.

He attended MacMurray College in Jacksonville to play baseball, also where he met his wife, and said he got more involved in the English department after hurting his arm. Hamm also explored fiction writing, but said he knew he “was always a poet at heart.”

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Coming back to poetry over time, he said he found success. He did his masters of fine arts degree at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and followed another Bloomington native who was coaching wrestling in Mexico, Missouri.

Knowing his best friend “Martin” would be there and his wife liked the school district, he said it was a good landing destination. Hamm said they haven’t found any reason to relocate since they moved there in 2005.

Hamm also edited his startup literary magazine, Museum of Americana, for 10 years. Then in 2019, his poem “Goodbye, Sancho Panza“ was studied by 50,000 students worldwide through the World Scholar’s Cup curriculum.

Bloomington couple hope book, school visits improve birthmark awareness

Around 2009, Hamm said his mother died and he had his first child. That’s when he said he realized his roots are in the Midwest, and leaving was not a certainty. Hamm said he thought he’d better start trying to see things with different eyes.

“Everything that happens in this region is a microcosm of the biggest conflicts and struggles, and also the most beautiful things in the world,” he said.

He said these experiences teach us lessons in human psychology, social interactions and the dichotomy of rural versus urban. There are many different perspectives to view through stories and images, he said, like immigrant experiences and sights of beautiful landscapes.

“When I started to stop and pay attention, I realized how deep that history really is,” said Hamm.

To keep up with Hamm, and read or purchase his work, go to

Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison

Take a trip to Jabal Al Shams in Oman or witness the aurora in Iceland


The Dubai Astronomy Group is taking giant leaps to bring the unknown closer to humankind and to show us what lies beyond our planet.

Sheeraz Ahmad Awan, General Manager of Dubai Astronomy Group (DAG), believes that knowing about astronomy is a necessity in this day and age. “With the establishment of the UAE space agency, the launch of the hope mission, the Rashid moon rover and the UAE government looking at a future on another planet, understanding astronomy is crucial.”

Over the next year, the Dubai Astronomy Group has an extensive program of workshops, training programs and tours for amateurs and those wanting to dive into space a little deeper. DAG regularly holds Astro tourism workshops upon request from visitors. The tours take place in the desert, and astronomy professionals speak to the participants about the Arabic heritage in astronomy.

“We set up telescopes, and we offer them Arabic hospitality experience. This is part of what we do to promote the Arabic culture and heritage,” said Sheeraz. This year, instead of being limited to private requests, DAG plans to open its Astro tourism activities to the public.

DAG also organises Astro tourism trips to Jabal Al Shams in Oman, Los Angeles, USA and Iceland, where participants will witness the Auroras – the spectacular celestial phenomenon which is featured on most people’s bucket lists.

He said that it is a fact that one of our ancestors was an astronomer because, in the past, it wasn’t a hobby but a necessity. “Understanding astronomy and the stars bring in a full loop. We’re coming back to a point where the understanding of astronomy, space and stars is becoming crucial in developing nations and our civilisation,” he said.

Sheeraz believes that astronomy changes live because it changes minds. “Being able to understand our universe and how massive things are out there gives you an amazing perspective of yourself and what is your size in the bigger scheme of things. It is a humbling experience,” he said.

Those interested in taking their Astrophotography skills one step further than capturing the milky way can also sign up for one of DAG’s newly launched specialised courses.

“We are introducing the Astrophotography program as a public programme as well. We are giving people the opportunity to come and learn directly from an observatory astronomer who is collecting data on a regular basis,” said Sheeraz adding that these courses are more on the research and development side of astronomy, which takes it beyond the hobby status.

Over the years, he said more people expressed interest in basic aspects of astronomy, such as learning how to use the telescope, 3D printing and attending solar system courses. “We also have people express interest in being involved in the research side of things as well. This is why we are creating these programs, which are more extensive and longer than the regular 1-2 day workshops.”

The young audience is also one of their targets. “They are mind blowing. They’re so tuned in to the subject and they would ask you questions that you wouldn’t even imagine so they are also interested in the technical side of things,” he said.

The educational classes which will take place at the Al Thuraya Astronomy Centre include an introduction to astronomy class, a practical astronomy course, Planetary Astrophotography, Pure DSLR Astrophotography and crash courses in Telescope Training, Meteorites, 3D Printing and Paper Modeling. The Astro tourism programs include packages in Arabian astronomy, Greek mythological astronomy and astronomy in ancient civilisations and world major cultures.

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Points Of View – An Archival Gaze of Photography in India by Gayatri Sinha

Celebrated art critic and curator Gayatri Sinha’s latest edited books Point of View: Defining Moment of Photograph in India and The Archival Gaze: A Timeline of Photography in India 1840 – 2020 take a deep dive into the technological changes and aesthetic movements in photography across the Indian subcontinent. Focusing on archival and visual elements, the collections provide a much-needed kaleidoscopic lens on photography in colonial and post-colonial India. Artist, writer, curator Steven Evans is the Executive Director of FotoFest International.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and participants and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, do not reflect the opinion, position or official policy of Asia Society Hong Kong, its members, or its committees. Asia Society Hong Kong does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for the content of the information presented.