by Ivan Foley
He’s a Hall of Famer.
Bill Hankins, a free lance photographer and journalist for The Landmark, has been chosen for induction into the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame in Washington, Mo.
His selection was made public for the first time via a press release from the Missouri Press Association on Monday, though Hankins had been notified of the award several weeks ago.
“I was floored. There really are heroes of mine in the Hall of Fame,” Hankins said this week.
Hankins and five others will be a part of the fourth class to be inducted into the Photojournalism Hall of Fame, which opened in 2005 after several years of work initiated by Bill Miller, Sr., Publisher of the Washington Missourian. Winners get to display six to eight of their photos on a wall in the hall.
The induction ceremony will be held Thursday, Oct. 16.
Hankins taught journalism, English and photography in Nixa High School, Oak Park High School in Kansas City and Maple Woods Community College for 30 years. He retired from teaching in 2002. He taught more than 1,600 students throughout the years.
Since 1999, Hankins’ work has appeared in the pages of The Landmark. He was won many Missouri Press Association Better Newspaper Contest awards for this newspaper during that time. His popular Landmark People features, covering three newspaper pages with photos and text, focus on the lives of selected Platte County residents with interesting stories to tell. They are stories of family, hope, love, death, tradition, work and play.
“I enjoy telling what I think are some really unique stories here in Platte County. And I think people appreciate having their stories being told,” Hankins remarked.
“I’m really proud of the stuff I’ve done collectively and I feel pride in The Landmark being able to do a community service by reminding readers who we are here in the Midwest, in Platte County. It’s a great opportunity to tell people’s stories that might not get told otherwise.”
A couple of years ago, Hankins compiled many of those same in-depth features into a hard-cover book entitled Landmark People, Stories from Platte County. The book was published by Walsworth Publishing Company.
Hundreds of copies of the book have been sold through outlets like Barnes and Noble at Zona Rosa and it can still be purchased at The Landmark office in downtown Platte City.
“Ultimately what I enjoy doing is telling people’s stories. I like to capture those moments that really communicate something about a person’s life,” he added.
In addition to the in-depth features, Hankins also photographs high school sports and other special events year-round for The Landmark. Just as he has done with his photo essays, he has received statewide awards for his sports photography.
As he neared his retirement from the teaching profession, Hankins said he wanted “to see what I could do after all those years of teaching. Could I write, could I photograph at the level I hoped I could?”
The honors he has earned prove that he could.
“When you teach, you learn. I became better by trying to find ways to teach others to be better, especially teenagers,” Hankins explained.
Bill and his wife, Marcia, live on 35 acres in northern Platte County, east of Interstate 29 near Camden Point.
He calls the spot “35 acres of heaven. If heaven has grass to mow, that’s it.”
He and Marcia have horses and mules that get used as photographic subjects.
“They’re a part of our lives. I have a pond where I’m still trying to get the ultimate picture of the geese flying in or leaving,” he smiled.
He has two grown children, Kate of Columbia and Andy of North Kansas City; four grandchildren--with another on the way--who are often found at the end of grandpa’s camera lens.
“I love photographing my grandkids.”
While journalism adviser at Oak Park for 25 years, Hankins won the Missouri Journalism Teacher of the Year Award, the Knight Award and Taft Award from the Missouri Interscholastic Press Association. He was also a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Teacher of Merit and Pioneer Award winner from the National Scholastic Press Association.
Bill and Marcia--also an instructor--founded the Heartland Photojournalism Project which combined their photo students from Oak Park and Park Hill High Schools to photograph a day in the life of a small town in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas or Nebraska. The project ran for 15 years.
One of his heroes in the Hall of Fame is Cliff Edom, a man who headed the photojournalism department at the University of Missouri from 1943 to 1962.
“He’s the guy who first coined the term ‘photojournalism.’ I have a picture of him on my wall to remind me of the photojournalism lineage,” Hankins remarked.
The Hall of Fame seems a natural fit for a man who doesn’t hide his love for photography.
“I just can’t imagine life without a camera,” he said.