They call him the human camera.
Stephen Wiltshire was born in London in 1974. As a child, Stephen was a mute. At the age of three he was diagnosed as autistic, and in that same year his father died in a motorcycle accident.
At five he was sent to the Queensmill School for the autistic in London. The instructors there discovered that Stephen had an intense passion for art. Even as a child, his skill and attention to detail was exceptional.
They used this passion to help teach him to talk. Stephen was a mute, and avoided communication with others as much as possible.
So his instructors at Queensmill would take away his art supplies when he wasn’t using them so that he was forced to communicate with them when he wanted to draw again. He started with just sounds, but eventually he said his first word: “paper”.
He learned to speak fully at the age of nine. By that time, his passion for art was already extremely developed. His favorite subjects were American cars (he’s said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of them) and the buildings of London.
During his time at Queensmill, Stephen’s instructors discovered that he had an extraordinary gift: he was able to reproduce extremely intricate sketches after seeing an image only once.
As an adult, Stephen used this skill to jump-start his career as an architectural artist by flying over massive cities and then reproducing huge, elaborate sketches of the cities, down to the number of windows in each building and the clothes on clothing lines.
I’ve gathered a few videos showcasing his mind-blowing talent. Enjoy!
Stephen draws New York City for UBS’s “We Will Not Rest” campaign in 2011:
Stephen draws Rome after flying over it for the first time:
Stephen draws Singapore after a helicopter fly-over (time-lapse):
Stephen takes on his largest ever panoramic drawing: a nearly 360 degree image of Tokyo:
Stephen is what is known as an autistic savant. Autistic savants have damage to the left anterior lobe of the brain, which plays a key role in processing sensory input and forming memories.
Because of this, they are able to access lower-level information like the extremely intricate details of buildings in Stephen’s works of art.
This information actually exists in all of our brains, but it’s normally unavailable to our conscious awareness because our brains classify this information as superfluous or non-essential.
However, studies and controversial experiments have proved that we can tap into these same talents by using transcranial magnetic stimulation: temporarily shutting down parts of the left anterior lobe using magnets.
Check out the video below to see how it effected creativity and other brain functions in the fascinating video below:
To view more of Stephen’s work and learn more about his life, you can visit his website, The Stephen Wiltshire Gallery.