‘Hobby’ becomes work of art

By Melissa Lore / Independent Reporter

To the naked eye, visitors to Newport might see beautiful pictures involving landscape, buildings, even people, but for one local man those breathtaking pictures give way to photographs capturing each intricate detail.

Plegge's name has become synonymous with photography in this cozy little town. His pictures are displayed in doctors' offices, the local college and many private homes, including his own.

A recent visit with Plegge unveiled the creative side of the artist and his work. With thousands of photos in his collection and hundreds on the walls of his home, Plegge described his work as a "hobby."

"I started photography in high school at Central High in Little Rock. They offered a course in black and white photography. They had a tremendous dark room. It was huge! I didn't have a camera, so I used the school's equipment."

And that's how it all began.

Plegge's first real experience in photography was a wedding he had the opportunity to shoot.

"I didn't think about it until I taught at the college last semester and someone asked when I got started. It was 50 years ago."

Work must come before play and that is what Plegge engaged in first. For 23 years he had a company in Newport that offered group insurance to people all over the United States. He explained that the company did the underwriting, filed claims and did policy issues all in house, the first company in the U.S. to do it. After that, he went to work at Newport Hospital as Assistant Administrator, which he did for 10 years.

In high school, Plegge was named the All-American Football Team in 1956 for the season of 1955 and went to the University of Arkansas on a football scholarship, where he injured both of his knees, but stayed in school and worked in the training room.

Plegge explained that he knew the high school football coach in Newport and came to work as a trainer for the Greyhounds in 1966. He ended up filming the games for 20 years. After the graduation of his children, he said, "I'm not gonna do this anymore."

The man of many talents also has a pilot's license, which he obtained when he turned 17 years old. His father was in the business and Plegge was able to take his first solo flight at the age of 16.

Beginning his hobby by taking pictures of family and friends, Plegge said he's not obsessed, but intrigued by the art of photography. After working for 40 years in the world of dark rooms, chemicals and time, Plegge was introduced to digital photography.

"A friend asked me about digital cameras and I didn't know anything about them. He got me into it and I bought my first camera. What's fun about it is what I used to do in the darkroom, I can do on my computer now. I can do pictures all in color or black and white."

He's quick to admit his favorites are black and white. And while he still has his dark room, with all the chemicals, Plegge now finds himself waking up anxious to learn more about the art of digital photography online with his photography buddies.

"I still don't consider myself a good photographer. I see all the faults. Charlotte says I'm too picky," Plegge smiled. "When I take a picture, I think about my camera," he explained. "It's really tough to get the light where it flatters your subject."

Working as much as three to four hours a day on the computer, the modest Plegge said he is constantly out to learn.

"I belong to a camera group with people all over the world. We exchange ideas, talk about our equipment, ask what each other is doing. It's a tremendous help in learning. But I've got a long way to go."

When touring the rooms of the Plegge home filled with pictures, one can't help but notice the dozens of pictures of cathedrals, his favorite subject for the frame.

"I think I've been to every major cathedral in England."

Among their numerous travels throughout their married life of 46 years and following his retirement, the Plegge's have visited London, England, their favorite; gone on cruises to Aruba, Columbia, into and back out of the Panama Canal; through the Panama Canal; from Vancouver to Hawaii; took a Mediterranean Cruise to Spain, France, and Italy; Greece; Croaitia; Germany; and Normandy, just to name a few.

He described Normandy as a "special place." Having a number of pictures from various angles of the beach of Normandy, the site of D-Day's invasion on Normandy, Plegge said, "when you're there on the site, wow, you can't believe it!"

He explained that the property above the beach, belonging to the United States as a gift from France, is almost hallowed ground, with those visiting being very respectful of the over 10,000 soldiers' graves.

Along with touring the world and taking photos as memories, Plegge has a number of other passions, including cars and Greyhound football. He's also a member of "everything here," including Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, church, and Moving Jackson County Forward.

Having restored British sports cars for a number of years, taking them to shows and winning, Plegge hung up the restoration hobby not long ago after arthritis prevented him from working on them as he would like. He hung up the golf clubs as well.

The last car collection he had followed him into retirement and included an Austin-Healey 3000, Triumph TR3 and MGB-GT, which he had owned for 25 years.

"I had to keep them in storage, so I just got rid of them. That (restoration) was just something I wanted to do.

Now, he's preparing to teach another class at ASUN, having taught two beginning photography classes in the past. He looks forward to teaching students the art of working with photographs on the computer.

No comments: