Scent, Memories and Photography.

“Have you ever noticed that a particular scent can bring forth a rush of vivid memories? The smell of cookies baking might remind you of spending time at your grandmother’s house when you were a small child. The scent of a particular perfume might remind you of a romantic partner with whom your relationship ended on a sour note.

Why does smell seem to act as such a powerful memory trigger?

First, the olfactory nerve is located very close to the amygdala, the area of the brain that is connected to the experience of emotion as well as emotional memory. In addition, the olfactory nerve is very close to the hippocampus, which is associated with memory as you learned earlier in this article.

The actual ability to smell is highly linked to memory. Research has shown that when areas of the brain connected to memory are damaged, the ability to identify smells is actually impaired. In order to identify a scent, you must remember when you have smelled it before and then connect it to visual information that occurred at the same time. According to some research, studying information in the presence of an odor actually increases the vividness and intensity of that remembered information when you smell that odor again.” – Taken from http://psychology.about.com

The same principle applies backwards in relation to photography, when you see a photograph, it can bring back memories of the event along with vivid smells. We’re yet to find a photography exhibition that is themed on this subject but artist Josely Carvalho leads a walk which “expands upon the Carvalho’s work cataloguing smells and exploring their relationship to time, memory, and place.” Carvalho has over 1000 different bottled smells from participants filled with the visual representation of a cherished smell which inspire her.

Perhaps photography in relation to smell could be a future route that more photographers will start to explore. More on the walks can be read here.

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About phonarphotosense

PHOTOSENSE is a exploration of narrative and the response of the different senses.

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