Hyphantasia: A visual artist with a mind’s eye like a camera
Posted on February 6, 2018
Susan Aldworth’s father passed away several years ago, but when she closes her eyes to picture his face it’s as if she were staring at a photograph. Susan thought mental imagery was a universal ability, so she was shocked to learn that some people, known as aphantasics, don’t have a mind’s eye at all.
A London-based visual artist, Susan uses experimental printmaking and filmmaking to explore human identity through medicine, neuroscience and philosophy. She’s at upper end of mental visual spectrum, a hyperphantasic, able to create mental pictures that are rich with color and nuance. Whereas aphantasics typically score a zero on the questionnaire that assesses visual imagery (VVIQ), Susan scored at the upper limit.
“I can’t imagine a life without mental pictures,” says Susan. “Honestly, I don’t want to. In art school, we were taught to notice the world’s infinite detail. I built my studio on the fifth floor of my building, so that I would be up in the sky. All day, I notice the birds, clouds, colors, and the light at different times of the day. It thrills me.”