Scentography: A Camera That Captures Smells

July 2, 2013 | Julia Dawidowicz

Hate to break it to you, but your gritty 35mm photos of urban decay are trite and overdone. But don’t worry! There’s a fresh new way to transport your audience into the depths of post-industrial wasteland, down to the oppressive stench of hot garbage, stray dog shit, and broken dreams. Meet Madeleine, the analogue “scentography” camera that captures odor instead of image.

Named after Marcel Proust’s story of involuntary memory triggered by the taste of a cake, Madeleine was invented by designers Amy Radcliffe and Helene Combal-Weiss based on the idea of scent as “a direct link to emotional memory.” The device consists of a funnel, which is placed over the smelly environment of your choice, a pump, and an odor trap made of Tenax– a porous polymer resin that absorbs the smell’s volatile particles. Captured scents are then processed at a fragrance lab, and turned into little vials of perfume.

“[Smell] is the sense we react to most instinctively, and the furthest away from being stored or replicated digitally,” Radcliff told The Guardian.”It could be anything from the smell of your old house to sniff when you’re feeling homesick, to the scent of a missed relative or partner.” Or of a junkie who just soiled his pants under a a toppled rusty fence. Your call.