Roy Hughes is exhibiting striking color photos at the Wayside Inn in Sudbry that view familiar sights with a designer's keen eye and a painter's infatuation with color and light.
Even inside the Wayside Inn, visitors can still view classic New England vistas of sunbeams dancing across quiet lakes and the wind rustling grassy meadows.
Just by entering the second-floor gallery, they can also check out the sleek, sexy hood of an orange Lamborghini or the swirling lights of the carousel at Palisades Park.
Has the ghost of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow returned to spin more fanciful tales in the Sudbury landmark he helped make famous?
Another sort of artist, Roy Hughes is exhibiting striking color photos that view familiar sights with a designer's keen eye and a painter's infatuation with color and light.
Living up to its title, his show "Interpretations" features 17 mid-sized photos that find something new and often startling in things and scenes we've often seen before.
A former Polaroid executive specializing in art design, Hughes takes pictures with a sort of X-ray vision that lets him capture the elusive essence of a stack of canoes, a cluster of geraniums or a wooden walkway to the ocean.
He recalled visiting a canoe rental on the Charles River four times before finding the precise combination of light and shadow he wanted for his photo.
"I think of photography as a series of different things," said the 62-year-old Shrewsbury resident. "I finally realized what I like is strong, bold photography. I like taking landscapes. I like taking portraits. But what I really like is taking abstractions."
Guy LeBlanc, the inn's director of museum services, praised Hughes' "artistic eye and designer's sensibility."
"Roy uses color, line, shape and texture to produce images of unusual beauty from the seemingly commonplace. His creative use of color brings unexpected drama to familiar objects," he said.
Looking around the gallery, LeBlanc said all of Hughes' photos found something magical in the everyday world.
"(Roy Hughes') remarkably varied palette can be alluringly subtle or vibrantly intense, evoking a dreamlike quality and oftentimes abstracting the subject itself. Hughes composes his images in a way that brilliantly interprets color and pattern, imploring his audience to ponder the subtleties of a hitherto unexplored microcosm around us," he said.
Hughes has been involved with different aspects of photography for more than 30 years but has only been focusing on his own fine art images since 2004.
While majoring in design at the State University of New York on Long Island, he took a course in "practical" photography that emphasized its use in graphic arts.
He served as director of design at Polaroid Corporation in Cambridge from 1976 to 1982. He left to found Hughes Communication Design, which he ran for 22 years.
Hughes observed that during those years he regarded photos as "design tools" of secondary importance to the graphic designs his team made. "I was never really serious about photography. To me then, it was just a tool and design was number one," he said.
That emphasis changed dramatically in 2004 when Hughes "semi-retired" and started driving around with his Canon 5D digital camera.
"I stop when I see something that interests me. A lot of it isn't planned. Some days I go out and come back with nothing. Sometimes I come with with two or three keepers," he said.
The "keepers" that Hughes is showing at the Wayside Inn represent his current interest in photographs of actual scenes that tend toward abstraction.
In "Retired," he evokes an image of drifting down a lazy river by photographing the upturned hulls of five canoes lying on a dock. Looking at "Yellow Steps," a viewer might imagine the relaxing possibilities of following a wooden walkway across dune grass to the ocean just beyond the horizon.
Creating a totally different effect, his photo "Spinner" freezes a kaleidoscopic moment as a child rides a plastic horse on the Palisades Park carousel beneath a blur of red and yellow lights.
Hughes said photos in the show mostly represent his recent interest in abstract images. He said he's working simultaneously on several different "series," each with its own look and style.
"While the Wayside photos are oriented toward primary colors, the new series I'm working on will be completely different and at the other end of the spectrum," he said.
The most distinctive photo on display, "Geranium," is so simple it resembles a Japanese woodcut. Yet it captures in one image Hughes' search for perfect composition and subtly balanced colors.
Hughes said he aims in his photos to "shock viewers" into recognizing something they've seen countless times in an absolutely new way.
"For me, the reason I left design was that photography gives you all the artistic freedom you can imagine," he said.
Roy Hughes' photography can be seen through Jan. 3 in the second-floor gallery of the Wayside Inn, a Massachusetts Historic Landmark, at 72 Wayside Inn Road, Sudbury.
All of Hughes' photos are available for purchase with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Wayside Inn's nonprofit mission.
The gallery is open for viewing free of charge during the inn's regular hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
For more information about the Wayside Inn, call 978-443-1776 or visit www.wayside.org.