It is said that olfactory senses are the most tied to memory. A whiff of some familiar scent can bring forth all kinds of memories. It can even impose itself on a perfectly ordinary, non-scented photograph.
Case in point. The tannery in Fes (Morocco):
Above, you can see (what I hope is) a pleasing visual rendering of this historic area of the Fes Medina. It’s a nine-centuries-old leather tannery, where workers soften, dye and cut leather into something you want to wear. The photograph has decent composition, its colour palette is quite lovely – pots of white, beige, brown – and its history quite interesting.
But when I look at this picture, all I can remember is how it smelled. To high heaven. I mean truly foul. I believe it’s the stuff that softens the leather that stinks so much. I read somewhere that it’s part pigeon excrement (highly acidic, able to break down the leather), which would explain the unpleasant odour.
Anyway. What I’m trying to get at is, nowhere in this photo is there any indication of what it smells like. Yet, as soon as I look at the picture, it brings the memory of the tannery’s stench flooding back to me as if it were yesterday. My olfactory data banks aren’t going to forget it any time soon. Same goes for the “educational” visit I made to a pulp and paper mill in northern Ontario in Grade 8. Ew.