The Olfactory Journey Exhibit

How does scent accompany your life? How do smells help you recall certain events in your past? Photojournalist Eléonore de Bonneval weaves a complex tableau of memories and impressions in her multisensory exhibit titled “The Olfactory Journey” and held in Paris between  7 November and 15 December 2016. She uses smells, sounds, and images to recreate personal journeys and memories of twenty residents of Bretonneau, a geriatric hospital in Paris, France.


As de Bonneval explains, “Residents recall with nostalgia the smell of dishes cooked by their parents or grandparents, of family holidays and even the smell of the cellar, an odor which for some Parisians is strongly associated with the Second World War. Whilst reading and hearing these stories, we discover not only “the smell of friendship” and ‘the smell of freedom’ but also ‘the smell of fear’.”

Exhibition by Eléonore de Bonneval
7 November – 15 December 2016

Hôpital Bretonneau
rue principale
23 rue Joseph de Maistre
75018 Paris
Free Entry | all days | 9h – 17h



  • spe: From a geriatric hospital – fascinating. I wonder what they remember as the smell of freedom?

    Strong smell associations for me: boat gasoline, mowed grass, forests, carnations / pinks, rain ozone, and the smell of moist valley dirt at night.

    I hope this exhibit travels outside Paris. December 7, 2016 at 8:11am Reply

    • Victoria: I was also wondering about this. Sounds like a fascinating exhibit. This photographer did another installation devoted to anosmia (as far as I remember), and it was very well-done. December 7, 2016 at 8:50am Reply

  • Maria: What a beautiful idea!!! Thanks a lot Victoria for talking about this fascinating project. I also hope this will travel outside Paris. December 7, 2016 at 11:46am Reply

    • Victoria: I’d like that too. December 9, 2016 at 10:00am Reply

  • Gretchen: What an incredible exhibit – I’d love to hear from someone who visits, and learn what stood out for them. December 7, 2016 at 1:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s always interesting to hear what scents people remember, especially from such a long perspective. December 9, 2016 at 10:01am Reply

  • Jennifer Shaw: That does sound fascinating! I wish that an exhibit like this would travel over to the US, from Paris. That sounds just like a perfect exhibit that the de Young Museum/ Legion of Honor would host!! December 7, 2016 at 2:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: I think so. The concept sounds ideal. December 9, 2016 at 10:02am Reply

  • Aurora: Alas, I won’t be there to see it, but thanks to you I am at least aware of it. It must be so touching the memories from the hospital residents, the smell of fear I associate with cold sweat, more the sensation of sweat running down one’s back than the smell. December 8, 2016 at 4:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: I recall that the German artist Sissel Tolaas did an exhibit about the smell of fear and anxiety. Trying to find the link. December 9, 2016 at 10:10am Reply

  • Lindsay: The Olfactory Journey Exhibit. I keep getting this blog everyday in my inbox. Over a week now. I enjoy your blogs but can this one stop coming now please. Thanks x January 13, 2017 at 4:30am Reply

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