Oh, you’ve heard of photographic memory before? Than perhaps you’ve already heard of Stephen Wiltshire, a.k.a’ed as “the Human Camera.” He is the artist responsible for the picture above, aptly titled “Monte Carlo.” I’m no art critic, but the tremendous accomplishment in this work is almost unparalleled in human history, not because the painting is especially brilliant in form or technique, but because the image depicted is photographically perfect to what you would see in a helicopter ride over Monte Carlo. For only a brief few minutes, a helicopter ride is just what Stephen went on; then he went on to paint this work entirely from memory.
Stephen is an autistic savant who sketches perfect skylines, down to the minutest of details, directly from his briefly-glimpsed photographic memories. Much has been said about this incredible young man already, and a full length documentary can be seen here, but this article is not about Stephen. It is about you. It is about you and your ability to do the exact same thing: develop a photographic memory.
The Photographic Memory
Lauded across civilization as one of the ultimate powers of mankind, the photographic memory has long resided in the realms of mythos, ambiguously skating the lines between reality and legend. The possibilities of attaining such a superhero ability, being nearly limitless, fill one’s mind with a power-high from just imagining it. Yet, as it currently stands, our general understandings widely boil down to hearsay and urban legend, dismissed the way of alchemy, until now…
On ehow.com, there is a tutorial on how to develop a photographic memory using only household appliances, within the span of a mere 30 days. Outrageous! Wild claims are nothing new to the internet and bullshit alarms should sound pretty quick. This method, however, seems to keep showing up over and over and over all across the internet like a foul rumor that just won’t die. While repetition hardly grants the premise credence, it does bring to light an intriguing question. Why can’t we find anyone who’s actually done it?
For such a simple training program with such amazing benefits, it seems no one is willing to put in the effort, or if they are, they are unwilling to share their newfound photographic memory with the world. So this is where we come in…
As of the publication of this article, I am 7 days into my own regimen, and I can tell you I’ve glimpsed victory (more on that shortly). This is, though, the 4th attempt I’ve made in the last 6 months, for reasons we’ll look at in a moment. Our focus here is to validate or discredit this idea by self experimentation, posting results, and looking for feedback/others interested in training their brains to be more.
The Photographic Memory Method (basic)
- 1. This system will take 1 month for you to develop a photographic memory, you must take 15 minutes every day and dedicate it to this training. For the first month, your eyes will take about 5 minutes time to adjust to daylight reading.
- 2. Find a dark room in your house, free of distractions for 15 minutes. I use the bathroom. The room must have a bright lamp or ceiling lamp.
- 3. Sit down next to the light switch with your book and paper that has a rectangular hole cut out of it the size of a paragraph.
- 4. Cover the page, exposing only one paragraph and hold the book out in front of you. Close your eyes and open, adjust distance so that your eyes focus instantly with ease on the writing.
- 5. Turn off light. You will see an after glow as your eyes adjust to the dark. Flip light on for a split second and then off again.
- 6. You will have a visual imprint in your eyes of the material that was in front of you. When this imprint fades, flip the light on again for a split second, again staring at the material.
- 7. Repeat this process until you can recall every word in the paragraph in order. You will be able to actually see the paragraph and read it from the imprint in your mind.
Tips & Warnings
- Do not get discouraged, it will work. It has been working for the military for 70 years.
- You will be developing this technique to a point where you will be able to execute this during the day, all day.
- Rate this article with the stars by my screen name.
- Omitting even one day, can prolong training by as much as a week.
As I’ve said, I’ve tried and failed 4 times now, but I’ve learned a few secrets along the way that I’d like to share, because I have seen this work.
But why did you fail the last 4 times?
Well, it’s pretty simple actually. It’s boring. Actually putting in the effort to get a photographic memory is boring and tedious but mostly there was no feedback or reassurance because no one else (as far as we know) has done this yet. So, sitting in a dark bathroom every morning, frankly, I felt like a lunatic and quit. Congratulations to you, then. I’m here at your disposal (firstname.lastname@example.org) and with enough traffic, we’ll be starting a forum as well, so you have just gotten past the biggest obstacle of attaining a photographic memory, no support, and haven’t even done anything yet. All that said, let’s break this down step by step, so you can know what to expect.
1. This system will take 1 month for you to develop. You must take 15 minutes every day and dedicate it to this training. For the first month, your eyes will take about 5 minute’s time to adjust to daylight reading.
The first few days are really interesting, because the sensations are just spectacular. You’ll literally be able to see into the past through peripheral images burned into your retina. As for 15 minutes, this isn’t quite right. For the first several days, it will be more like 30-45; then you’ll develop a system and be able to pull back to 15. When it says “5 minutes to adjust,” this means don’t start the process until you’ve been in the dark for at least 5 minutes. After the novelty wears off, this routine will get tedious, so I highly recommend using this few minutes wisely: turn on some music for a reference to how much time has passed and brush your teeth or any other bits of your morning routine that don’t require light. I go so far as to take a waterproof flashlight into my cold shower (you can get flash images of individual droplets hovering in midair).
2. Find a dark room in your house, free of distractions for 15 minutes. I use the bathroom. The room must have a bright lamp or ceiling lamp.
The bathroom works well, but it must be pitch black. Be sure to shove a towel under the crack in the door and unplug any appliances with even a tiny light. “Dark” just won’t cut it; it needs to be complete blackness. Also, if you’re using a bathroom (closet works great too), be sure to let anyone living with you know you’ll be in there for a while, cause it’s really frustrating to be 12 minutes in and get an “I gotta pee” knock, only to have to start all over.
3. Sit down next to the light switch with a book and a paper that has a rectangular hole cut out of it the size of a paragraph.
Light switch is great, but flashlight is better so you won’t have to stand uncomfortably the whole time. The type of bulb is important as well; it can’t be one that emits residual light, cooling down gradually, as it needs to be a quick flash and nothing more or the effect is ruined. LED is excellent. As far as the book goes, forget it for the first few days. Just play around with the process until you can see a fair amount of detail in various objects in the room. After a few days, incorporate a book, but a child’s book with very large print (or print off anything you’d like, but with at least 20 sized font). Don’t be discouraged, because on the first day you won’t be able to read a paragraph, just get a vague shape of the page. it improves over time.
4. Cover the page, exposing only one paragraph and hold the book out in front of you. Close your eyes and open, adjust distance so that your eyes focus instantly with ease on the writing.
The concept here is fascinating: you’ll be training yourself to be able to read a paragraph only from a brief glance. After 30 days, the amount of time it takes to establish a habit, you’re mind will essentially be on autopilot, doing this automatically. How cool! Over time use smaller and smaller font to train your eyes.
5. Turn off light. You will see an afterglow as your eyes adjust to the dark. Flip light on for a split second and then off again.
Have fun playing around with the length of the flash, because the difference of a few milliseconds makes a huge difference, especially if there is any motion going on. Eyes work like cameras, and we want to avoid time-lapse photography (right).
6. You will have a visual imprint in your eyes of the material that was in front of you. When this imprint fades, flip the light on again for a split second, again staring at the material.
You’ll be able to see everything, as though the lights were still on. It’s a dizzying experience (can be scary and mind-blowing).
7. Repeat this process until you can recall every word of the paragraph in order. You will be able to actually see the paragraph and read it from the imprint in your mind.
Just start with details around the room and work up to this. Count tiles, trace wood-grain lines, anything. The memory itself is exactly “photographic;” an image is at your mind’s disposal. In the end, if you asked me what was the third word of the second paragraph on page 327 of Moby -Dick, I’d know it was blubber, not because I have it all memorized but because I can bring up the image of that page perfectly to my mind’s eye. It works on this same idea: currently, do you know what the fourth word in this paragraph is? Probably not. But you can find out easily enough because it’s only an inch or two up.
Two weeks into my first attempt, my mind made a leap. I was spinning in revelry at the notion that soon I’d have the super power of photographic memory and I wanted to test it, so I went to the shelf with all the movies and tried it out. I wasn’t really sure what to do or how to “take a picture” so I looked at a shelf with 200 or so videos and just thought “click,” looking at the shelf for only a second or so, being careful not to consciously read the titles. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine, not remember, the shelf. ‘Imagine’ isn’t quite right either; maybe see is the best word. Once you experiment you’ll understand what I mean. The experience is like perfectly looking into the past with a camera with resolution as detailed as your eyesight and clipping out a perfect 3 dimensional frame of reality. you can go back and look at these images the same way you look at a photo album except… it’s more like if time suddenly stopped, but you can’t perceive beyond whatever you’re focused on this exact moment. I imagined the shelf and could see every bit of it, even details I’d never noticed before, like little cracks in the wood or tiny things that would normally elude or not interest me. Most importantly, I could read every title. Today, 4 months later, I still can.
One man’s speculations and lunatic claims are hardly proof of anything, so let’s try this together. What have you got to lose besides your mind?