Book Dodging Tools
Book Dodging Tools
Photographs and Text by Aspen Mays
Published by Penumbra Foundation
40pp, Risograph Printing & die-cut covers
Limited Edition of 100 copies with one cyanotype print
Dodging tools are used in the darkroom to selectively alter the amount of light striking photographic paper while it is exposed. They are often crude and makeshift, cobbled together from scraps and materials at hand. If used “properly” while making a print, they are kept in motion and therefore, their actual shape and silhouette (or if they were even used) remains unseen and unknown. In a way, as objects, they are now doubly unrecognizable. Even though the concept of dodging and burning is a foundational function in Photoshop, digital technology has rendered these tools and the physical nature of their use obsolete, replaced by movements of the mouse instead. The photograms reproduced in this book are made from my collection of dodging tools, started in 2010, with several that I found in an abandoned darkroom at the National Astronomical Observatory in Chile during a Fulbright Fellowship. I was initially struck by the ways in which their basic utility seemed to stand in opposition to the vast technological sophistication of the telescopes being used at the same facility. I came to think of their improvisational character as sharing a common tool-making impulse, all in service to the subjective nature of seeing.
Aspen Mays was born in 1980 in Asheville, North Carolina and received her MFA in Photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. She has had solo exhibitions of her work at the Center for Ongoing Projects & Research in Columbus, Ohio and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Mays was a 2009-2010 Fulbright Scholar in Santiago, Chile, where she spent time with astrophysicists using the world’s most advanced telescopes to look at the sky. Her work has been written about in Art Forum, Art Papers, the New Yorker and the New York Times. She is currently Assistant Professor at California College of the Arts. Mays lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.