Smell this! Photographer & Videographer Silja Minkkinen
For the first post of the Synesthesia series, we met up with photographer & videographer Silja Minkkinen, and talked to her about how she experiences smells in her work.
We asked her to pick her most fragrant pictures, and tell us what she’d like us to smell in her pictures. First, a little bit more about her!
Hi Silja! Introduce yourself, what do you do?
I am a freelance photographer, videographer, food enthusiast and an adventurer.
As a photographer / videographer, the visual world and aesthetics obviously play a big part in your life. Your job is to capture emotion, feelings and moods on film. Does scent ever play a role in the way you shoot?
Whenever taking pictures/ shooting video, I try to capture the full emotion in all of it's senses. Scent is a huge part of the real life moment in front of the camera, and if you can smell the photo when watching it, it's a successful photo. I think I definitely have captured moments with a distinctive smell, but that usually only works out if it's not framed.
What's your relationship to smells, and what's your earliest scent memory?
I have always been smelling everything from flowers to dead animals, and I feel like I'm actually more drawn to the unpleasant smells, like sweat and dirt and mould. My earliest scent memories are all from my grandfathers home, where he has moose skulls hanging on the walls and fish skeletons drying in the front porch. There is a constant scent of smoke, leather, bones and dirt present, that's remained unchanged from my childhood until this day. Whenever I smell it I feel like an animal.
Are there any memorable moments related to scent from shoots you have been doing?
Once we did a shoot with artist Taika Mannila in an old motel. It was known for it's excessive use of pink satin and velvet, and the owner was a real character. But what really blew us away was the pervasive smell of strawberry scented candles, so strong you almost couldn't breathe. Underneath it you could smell the musty odor of unwashed carpets, and stained red velvet chairs.
Are there any specific scents related to photo / video that you like, or put you in the right mood?
Sweat (non-sport related) is a big deal for me. If you can see it, you can smell it, and sweat has so many different meanings depending on the situation. It means you are feeling something BIG. It can be a crush you have, or anxiety, or hangover, or being horny. I like seeing sweat in pictures and videos because it gives the appearance that the person is truly experiencing something, as we can see the body responding physically.
Synesthesia means a situation where another sense involuntarily triggers another sense in the body. Some people taste colors or see music. These are quite extreme cases, but do other senses ever trigger your other senses like that?
I often recognise scents as tastes, and vice versa. So a food could taste like the smell of an old barn, or I could clearly smell the taste of lingonberries in a wine.
Do you have a signature scent? Why / why not?
Yes I do. I looked for a specific scent for a long time, one that would remind me of my grandfathers. It had to me woody and smoky but with a twist, not just a smell of tar which often comes on strongest in woody perfumes. I wanted to smell like I had just hunted down a deer, skinned it, and was now wearing it's pelt on my shoulders like a true hunter. When I finally found it a few years ago I haven't changed since. Nowadays people recognise me from my smell.
So what perfume are you wearing right now?
That secret signature scent, shall we just call it Silja from now on ;)
What's the worst smell ever to you?
I'm not sure there is a worst smell for me, but the smell of sweet wine gummies and All Sorts make me gag.
What does your life smell like?
Nowadays my life smells more and more of food, as I've got into a cooking class and really harnessed my love for cuisine. At home the most common scent in the air is fish sauce, another musky, unpleasant, but yet so lovable rotten smell. I wonder if you could turn THAT into a perfume?
In an ideal world, how would you combine your work with smells? Your answer can also be completely utopistic, you choose!
I would create peoples scent memories into visual explosions, so they could share their specific experiences, that cannot be explained by words, with others.
Find more of Silja’s work here.