At some point later in life I decided that I wanted to record smells: I was dreaming (and still am) of having my personal library so that I could nonchalantly sniff my favorite scents and trigger/manipulate my own feelings. I owned appliances to reproduce what I saw and what I heard, why not what I smelled? Sadly, I could not find any device for that (Amy Radcliffe has rather recently made the most wonderful attempt with her Madeleine and I would love this to become the next big thing – something as disrupting as a TV a century ago).
Biology, chemistry and physics are by no means my strongest subjects, hence I could not consider designing my own device.
Exploring how I could approach smells from a non-scientific angle, few of my passions came to assistance: I had gravitated around photography for a while and had been into experimental music since teenage years, so putting the two things together was quite natural.
I thought that I could reproduce and archive my memories of smells using images and sounds from where and when smells were detected.
The concept gradually took shape when my partner Paolo Moretti and I engaged in long conversations about smells and deep sniffs of anything around/on us.
Because of his interest in sounds and wave manipulations, he took on the audio part whereas I focused on the visual side of the project.
We agreed on a structure for the project, based on 4 rules that could make our reproduction faithful and coherent:
1 >> ALL IMAGES WOULD BE SHOT WHERE SCENTS WERE SENSED
2 >> THEY WOULD BE THEN FILTERED AND EDITED ACCORDING TO SCENTS’ CUES
3 >> SOUNDS WOULD BE FIELD RECORDED IN REAL TIME DURING THE PHOTO-SHOOTING
4 >> SOUNDS SAMPLES WOULD BE USED AS AMBIENT GENERATORS THEN FILTERED THROUGH RESONATORS, DELAYS AND VARIOUS EFFECTS ACCORDING TO SCENTS’ FEATURES (NO FOREIGN SOUND WOULD BE ADDED)
I would then edit everything into a video to reproduce and “archive” what we smelled.
Finally, the project was named: Scentographers.
I have opted for making a video out of photographs rather than directly shooting one as I felt it would help capturing the elusiveness of smells and the challenge that human beings face in identifying, describing and recalling them.
In each episode, I have attempted to leverage image framing, colors, style, and editing to represent a specific scent: the nauseating, burnt, buttery comfort of popcorns smell has resulted in the grotesque, sepia, fast aperture close-ups of the characters of an eighteen century amusement park; the resinous and woody incense smell combined with the pungent and chemical one of gasoline has produced dazing layers of abstract reflections and sparks.