Analogies between photography and perfumery

Loulou perfume by Cacharel . Campaign by photographer Sarah Moon . 1987

Loulou perfume by Cacharel . Campaign by photographer Sarah Moon . 1987

After a childhood and an adolescence during which I learnt how to escape from reality, having the opportunity to work in the mysterious perfumery sector was very exciting to me.

Fragrances eventually came into my professional life in 2000.

I remember being impressed the first time I spoke with a perfumer on his art. How could he recall so many aromatic ingredients? How could he detect all of them in one fragrance? Is there a secret behind it all? No, no secret but a lot of hard work and many years of experience. The more I got to learn about the sector, the more fascinated I was.

Music and perfumery are usually compared as both sectors use notes to create a piece of music or a fragrance. But with experience in both photography and perfumery, I can tell you they have many interesting similarities too.

A smell is invisible; it is a sort of spirituality. We do not see it, but there it is. No need to question it. It will make such an unconscious impression on you that you might remember it forever. Photography has also some sort of mysticism. It captures fleeting moments to make them last forever.

While in the process of creating a fragrance, a perfumer plays on the different ingredients in the formula to get the perfect balance to suit the story he wishes to tell, highlighting some notes while leaving others in the dark, just like a photographer does with light.

The evocative power of a fragrance is similar to that of a picture. The smell reminds you of a place or a situation. The place or situation depicted in a picture might remind you what happened and how it smelt during that moment. 

While a fragrance metamorphoses the person that wears it, an image metamorphoses the world we live in through the vision of the photographer.

In Japan, they listen to fragrances. The ritual is known as Kodo. Fragrances have something to tell, like pictures do. They tell us a lot about the world around us, and about ourselves.

Both photography and perfumery, in their artistic forms, speak to the heart. They are connected directly to our emotions. They are wonderful vehicles to tell stories. 

It is no surprise that perfumery and photography go hand in hand to tell us emotional stories. Day after day, this is what I am, a raconteur, whatever the medium I use: photography or perfumery.

Welcome to my parallel world!

Christele Jacquemin