Souvenirs Olfactifs - Olfactory memories

Stories of olfactory memories

Scentys has partnered with photojournalist Eléonore de Bonneval and is supporting her research into the sense of smell, and olfactory memories.

Her first exhibit on the subject, “Anosmia: Lives Without a Sense of Smell”, looked at the impact the absence of scents has on people’s daily lives.

With “Olfactory Travels” (Voyages Olfactifs), Eléonore explores the power of olfactory memory. She conducted around 20 individual and group interviews with residents of the Bretonneau geriatric hospital, getting them to talk about the moments in their lives that they associated with certain smells.

It is very moving to read the stories in which they talk about what they call ‘the smell of freedom’, ‘the smell of friendship’ or ‘the smell of fear’…

One interviewee, Mrs. Moreau, said: “My sister smelled like a flower – a rose. We would meet three or four times a year and go for walks in the fields or the woods. We would pick mushrooms. I loved the smell of the undergrowth and moss. Chanterelles were my favorites. We would sauté them.”

Mrs. Duparque and several others had very clear memories of Paris during World War II, the smell of the basements where they would hide when the city was being bombed, rooms in which they smelled humidity, as well as fear…

When asked what love smelled like, Mrs. Ritou had a simple response: “a kiss”.

These stories are bona fide trips back in time. They speak to our individual and collective memory, and are now available in a book that Eléonore self-published thanks to the Bretonneau Hospital.

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