I just completed a beginning graphic design course. I don’t offer that information as an excuse for why I haven’t posted so much as an explanation for what I’m about to write.

I’ve had to ask friends and family if they’d let me photograph their necks. This request has garnered a mixed response— from the wary “Ok.” to the flat-out “No.” The neck, after all, is a sensitive space, tucked away between chin and chest. It is a vulnerable spot that has earned at least two telling cliches over the years:

1. ...sticking your neck out...
2. ...going for the jugular...

I’m sure there are more.

Perhaps due to its vulnerability it is also a place of desire. Tender and recessed, it wraps around our power of speech, swaddling our vocal cords through a life-time of inspired and mundane words.

Considering that it allows food and water to travel to the stomach, messages to travel between brain and body, air to travel to the lungs, and words to travel into the world the neck can be viewed as a conduit. The sexiest conduit in existence, but a conduit none the less.

But I digress. . . these are the reasons why I chose to photograph necks but they do not explain the end product.

Our final project in the design class was to redesign the CD packaging for a favorite album. I’ve long since moved beyond attempting to clarify what my favorite album might be so I chose an album that I was exceedingly familiar with but hadn’t given much attention to over the past ten years— Tricky’s Maxinquaye.

Upon listening to it again I was struck by how raw it still seemed: Tricky’s vocals coercing Martina’s delivery with both of them indiscriminately singing atop one another. The album has a sexual bravado juxtaposed with a crippling vulnerability that makes it hard to describe to others. I had expected that I wouldn’t have to do much explaining to my classmates as they’d all be familiar with the album, but I was proven wrong. Apparently, Tricky was only an inspiration to me in the late nineties.

I proposed to create packaging that over-layed photographs of necks printed on vellum with lyrics from the songs. That way it would appear as if the words were stuck in the throat. Furthermore, there would be odd images of textures and locations placed alongside these combinations of necks and words. It was my hope that this might produce some approximation of both the alluring and disquieting qualities of the music. For the most part it succeeded. The vellum had a skin-like quality compared to the heavier paper stock used for the photos and lyrics. Some of the photos chosen were cropped in such a way that the compositions themselves were confrontational and confounding. When people picked up the packaging to examine it they rarely had smiles on their face which, while not always an indicator of success, somehow seemed appropriate.

There are still many details I’d like to tweak before I would feel completely satisfied, but that requires asking more people to offer up their neck, and those conversations have proven to be just disquieting enough to prevent me from exploring this project any further.

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