Join 3,556 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Human camera
February 5, 2006 9:26 PM   Subscribe

The Tokyo skyline [Windows or Real media] drawn from memory by savant Stephen Wiltshire.
posted by tellurian (38 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
How long did he spend looking at it?

I would imagine most people could train themelves to do this, with a few basic tricks.
posted by delmoi at 9:52 PM on February 5, 2006


Oh my god, what the fuck, barbecue!
posted by Citizen Premier at 9:53 PM on February 5, 2006


ahhh.... Tokyo..... I will visit you again one day....
posted by matkline at 9:57 PM on February 5, 2006


How long? A little over 30 minutes according to the link.

And I don't believe even a small group of people could each replicate that 10 meter panorama after that short a look.
posted by ?! at 9:57 PM on February 5, 2006


Wish there was a higher resolution picture of the panorama.

Nevertheless, impressive.
posted by MetaMonkey at 9:59 PM on February 5, 2006


no way "most people could train themselves to do this" even with some "basic tricks." Most people couldn't sraw a picture of their own street with a few basic tricks.

I would like to see a transposition of the drawing and the city of Tokyo to see how alike they ended up.
posted by twjordan at 10:00 PM on February 5, 2006


And I don't believe even a small group of people could each replicate that 10 meter panorama after that short a look.

Well, you are incorrect then.
posted by delmoi at 10:05 PM on February 5, 2006


There's a chapter on Stephen Wiltshire in Oliver Sacks' book An Anthropologist on Mars--it includes several pages of unbelievable drawings he made as early as age ten.

According to Sacks, his almost-photographic memory was always there, but his drawings did improve significantly after he had some art training as a young teenager.

Nice link, thank you.
posted by feathermeat at 10:07 PM on February 5, 2006


How long did he spend looking at it?

I would imagine most people could train themelves to do this, with a few basic tricks.


Delmoi,

did you not watch the 5 short wmv's?
posted by spacediver at 10:08 PM on February 5, 2006


A lot of people have successfully taught themselves to remember large sequences of playing cards, by practice, technique and willpower.

A friend once taught me a way to remember large amounts of complex data by creating a visual journey through a familiar place. Within an hour or so I could correctly list 30-40 (I forget now) random objects. I'm sure with practice I or anybody could adapt these sort of techniques to pretty much anything, including a skyline.

Not that the Wiltshire fellow isn't exceptional.
posted by MetaMonkey at 10:08 PM on February 5, 2006


The Los Angeles traffic painting is really good. Sublime almost.
posted by bunglin jones at 10:09 PM on February 5, 2006


Sounds to me like delmoi is going to do a demonstration of how easy this is. I'm excited!
posted by Citizen Premier at 10:11 PM on February 5, 2006


From here: Perhaps the most striking and astonishing display of Stephen's remarkable visual memory and drawing ability occurs in a segment on a 2001 BBC documentary entitled Fragments of Genius. In this segment Stephen is taken on a helicopter ride over the city of London. After a brief ride, he returns to the ground where, in three hours, he completes a stunningly detailed and remarkably accurate drawing of London from the air which spans four square miles with 12 major landmarks and 200 other buildings drawn to perfect perspective and scale.
posted by tellurian at 10:11 PM on February 5, 2006


I think I now understand the phrase "Jerkin my Gherkin."
posted by Citizen Premier at 10:16 PM on February 5, 2006


Incidentally he does caricutures too, and in fact one of his galleries was called "not a camera."
posted by Citizen Premier at 10:19 PM on February 5, 2006


Hmm... recalling a lot of details about an environment isn't really like reproducing a visual field, line by line...
posted by Tikirific at 10:46 PM on February 5, 2006


Breathtaking.
Just, absolutely beautiful.
posted by phyrewerx at 10:59 PM on February 5, 2006


I also disagree that this is something so seemingly simple that we all could do it if we just, what, "put our minds to it"? Savants like Steven are wired in different ways, essentially. While some may be able to benefit a small amount from some of delmoi's mystery "tricks," it's not going to be as accurate or as grandiose or as impressive or as real. After less than an hour, and more than 30 feet of drawing to show for it, to scale.

Psh.
posted by disillusioned at 1:54 AM on February 6, 2006


obviously from the Roppongi Mori Tower. If you ever go to Tokyo, go up there to the viewing platform. An amazing view.
posted by dydecker at 2:23 AM on February 6, 2006


aaah, it is the child from the QED programme. He's well impressive and highly gifted.

Delmoi, I'd imagine you're talking through a hole other than your mouth. Respect where respect is due, this guy kicks ass!
posted by twistedonion at 2:50 AM on February 6, 2006


ha. i am an architect/artist, and after 5 years of training and 15 years of practice i couldn't begin to do this. this gentelman's process and skill are mindblowing. certainly his brain is wired way differently. thanks for the post.
posted by tarantula at 4:57 AM on February 6, 2006


I also disagree that this is something so seemingly simple that we all could do it if we just, what, "put our minds to it"?

It's not about "putting your mind to it", it's about a few mental tricks. I can beat any game of "memory" without error now, not because I improved my inate ability to remember things, but because I learned a simple memory technique. Rather then just look at the cards, I tell myself an abstract story about them (It dosn't need to make sense). I can even beat this flickr memry game while looking for 'fractal' this way.

The reason I can do this is in highschool I read the first few chapters of this cheezy "mega memory" book, not the whole thing just a few chapters.

Savants like Steven are wired in different ways, essentially.

B.S. There is no scientific evidence of this at all. While it may be much easier for them, I still think anyone (of resonable intelegence) could do it. If I could draw well (which I can't) I could probably do it.
posted by delmoi at 7:00 AM on February 6, 2006


Delmoi, I'd imagine you're talking through a hole other than your mouth. Respect where respect is due, this guy kicks ass!

Wow, I would "imagine" you're incorrect. And as we all know, if we can imagine something, it must be true!
posted by delmoi at 7:44 AM on February 6, 2006


lol, must be... I can't argue with you on the "mental tricks" but can you show me a few "talent tricks" to draw what you memorise so acurately?

If it was as easy a you try to suggest everyone would be a Rembrandt
posted by twistedonion at 8:14 AM on February 6, 2006


as easy as even.
posted by twistedonion at 8:15 AM on February 6, 2006


delmoi, while I respect your right to your own opinion, even your right to share it here on Metafilter, I believe you need to either put up or shut up about this topic. How long do you think it would take you to learn to replicate complex cityscapes with only a limited, one time view of them? I'd wager that, given the remainder of your life, you'd never be able to draw cityscapes in the same circumstances, within half the accuracy of the work of Stephen Wiltshire. Hell, most of us probably couldn't do it while looking directly at the cityscape from a 360 degree view atop the city.

Simple games with few rules that anyone can master with a few minutes or hours of practice is not remotely similar to reproducing something as complex as a skyline with only a single, non-linear, aerial view. If you can't see the difference, I'm sorry for having engaged your ego.
posted by sequential at 8:21 AM on February 6, 2006


What sequential said.

Though I'll say that there's more than just memory involved here - drawing a skyline even while starting directly at it requires some non-trivial training, much less reproducing the perspective and intricate details purely from memory...
posted by Tikirific at 9:56 AM on February 6, 2006


"Aged three, he was diagnosed as autistic."

So in essence his "talent" is achievable by us regular types, but only if we devote years of our lives to developing the narrow memorizational talent that Wiltshire possesses naturally because of his neurological disorder... I vote not worth it!
posted by superfem at 10:10 AM on February 6, 2006


Please dont insult delmoi - we need men of his towering , gargantuan talent at metafilter.
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:33 AM on February 6, 2006


and to be quite honest sequential , i think being in the same thread as delmoi is a bit threatening to you , you can't handle the feelings of inferiority it gives you and thats why you've chosen to hijack this thread with your insane ramblings about some savant or other , who has no relevance to the original topic at hand.
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:38 AM on February 6, 2006


This is stunning. Awesome. Amazing. Thank you.

His renderings of beautiful big ole cars are...amazing.
posted by tpl1212 at 10:44 AM on February 6, 2006


It's not about "putting your mind to it", it's about a few mental tricks. I can beat any game of "memory" without error now, not because I improved my inate ability to remember things, but because I learned a simple memory technique.

I wonder, Delmoi, have you ever heard of a book called "The Mind of a Mnemonist"?

Photographic memory is extremely rare, and is associated with synaesthesia (the ability to experience sensory input in a crossmodal fashion). I recommend you educate yourself about this phenomenon a little bit more before making the sort of assertions shown in your posts here.

Then again, you're probably trolling :)
posted by spacediver at 11:06 AM on February 6, 2006


Wow, astounding! I've spent hours myself staring at the same skyline in real life, and am amazed by its beauty and intricacy. To see it replicated with such skill, and accuracy (it is indeed accurate) is phenomenal. I'd love to get a closer look and see the degree of detail involved.
posted by dead_ at 1:45 PM on February 6, 2006


crazy great!

I've spent hours myself staring at the same skyline in real life, and am amazed by its beauty and intricacy.

i've tried to describe to friends what it's like to be 70 stories up and have a 360 degree panorama that's nothing but densely packed tall buildings to the hoizon in every direction. nobody can really believe it until they see it. it just boggles my mind that things like that exist on our earth.
posted by 3.2.3 at 5:10 PM on February 6, 2006


Delmoi, Until I see you train a small group to recreate that panorama (under the same conditions) you're just blowing smoke. By the way, was this the book that changed your life?
posted by ?! at 10:04 PM on February 6, 2006


Until I see you train a small group to recreate that panorama (under the same conditions) you're just blowing smoke.

I think so too. But don't forget that we're all capable of internally creating a completely convincing reality every night, whilst simultaneously being able to continue a thought process like we do when awake....and we do it in our sleep!

Maybe it could be learnt, but its easier to take psychedelic drugs, or just give up and go to bed...
posted by 6am at 2:25 AM on February 7, 2006


Here's my photos from the same building, two stories down from where he was.
posted by ejoey at 3:47 AM on February 7, 2006


Great photos ejoey, thanks for sharing. They help me put his accomplishment into perspective (no pun intended).
posted by tellurian at 2:26 PM on February 7, 2006


« Older Ben Frost is a painter, performance artist and ill...  |  The Socratic Method: Teaching ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments