Justin Hamm, a poet and photographer, who also serves as the district librarian for the North Callaway School District, was finally able to present his work to his home community Sunday in a gallery opening at Presser Performing Arts Center. His work will be on display through Aug. 11.
Doing a gallery show in Mexico has been a dream of Hamm’s, said his wife, Mel. The couple both work for the North Callaway District and Mel previously worked for the Mexico School District.
Hamm greeted guests as they arrived, and his poetry is peppered throughout the gallery to accompany the photography. The poems on display are some of Hamm’s favorites, he said.
The photo gallery opening focuses on his newest book “Midwestern,” a collection of photography and poetry. Rural life in Missouri and Illinois is a major focus of Hamm’s work. This includes photographing pastoral subjects like aging barns, farm equipment and vehicles.
“A lot of people here have been really awesome supporters of me for several years by buying books and pictures from me,” Hamm said. “To say, ‘Thank you,’ let me share a few poems with you guys.”
He read approximately six poems from three of his collected works of poetry to the crowd of about two dozen visitors. Hamm writes his poetry in a way that evokes images in a reader’s mind, such as with descriptions of a group of men joining together at a Hardee’s to drink coffee, or a young teen who wants to reach out and touch a piece of art in a gallery.
Hamm and his wife will travel to the Netherlands this week where they will spend nine days taking part in World Scholar’s Cup activities. One of Hamm’s poems, “Goodbye, Sancho Panza,” is part of the event’s curriculum, and Hamm has received inquiries from students throughout the globe, including from India and Vietnam.
Following the Presser gallery show, his pieces will then be displayed at the Mississippi River Gallery in Hannibal, before he travels to Yankton, South Dakota, to perform a reading and present a portion of “Midwestern.”
Hamm has served as the district librarian and media specialist for the North Callaway School District for the past 15 years. He helps run a student literary magazine and assists in art classes’ photography sections. He also coordinates a yearly poetry contest through the Auxvasse Creative Arts Council and works as a liaison between the council and the school district.