With devices loaded with incredible audio-visual capabilities packed in our pockets, it is easy for us to appreciate progress toward effortless documentation. However, audio and visual record-making is not the only way we can document our lives. Amy Radcliffe's Madeleine, a “scentography” camera, pushes personal documentation into the realm of scent. The beautiful and seemingly easy-to-use device opens the door for the capturing of smell-scapes, the preservation of an individual’s scent, and a large-scale shift in smell’s role in the records of our lives.
In Radcliffe’s remarkable take on “scentography”, a small glass dome is placed over an object whose scent you want to document. A tiny pump then sucks the particles that make up the smell into a ceramic casing, where an odour trap creates a graph-like sketch of the scent under the dome. The odour trap is then removed and sent away for development, similar to the way film photographs are sent to a photo lab. Instead of getting negatives back, the scent-ographer would receive a bronze disk marked with the special scent’s formula and small capsules containing the aroma.
Having built a working prototype and completed tests on the device’s sampling process, Radcliffe's "analogue odour camera" may be sparking a not-so-far-off expansion of the way we grasp and revisit human experience. Many consider smell to be the sense most directly tied to emotional memory and Madeleine sets the stage for this highly instinctual factor’s entrance into popular record keeping.
Images courtesy of Amy Radcliffe