British photographer David Vintiner has made a past time out of documenting the strange and sometimes amazing hobbies of others.
Last year, he made his way to Croydon, a suburb of London, to attend one of the stranger events he’s ever seen: the 21st World Memory Championships.
The 2012 winner was Johannes Mallow of Germany, who set a world record this year by memorizing 937 numbers in 15 minutes.
World Memory Championship contestants compete for three days across 10 different disciplines, which include memorizing numbers, names, historic dates, and decks of cards.
Contestants say that memorization is a similar skill to chess or programming. Rather than requiring a high IQ, it rewards those that follow and practice a particular method religiously.
Many competitors fashion special goggles to block out peripheral vision to make it easier to concentrate and memorize.
One of the most difficult events is memorizing a binary number. Contestants get 30 minutes to memorize as many digits as they can from a sheet of paper.
After the adjudicators collect the papers, contestants must wait between 5 to 10 minutes to recall the number.
During this time, says Vintiner, contestants sit in quiet contemplation and try to avoid any stimulus that might upset their memory.
After the wait period, the competitors are handed a blank sheet of paper and asked to fill in as many digits as they can. The winner memorized 3954 digits.
This is UK Memory Champion and accountant Ben Pridmore. He won the World Memory Championships in 2004, 2008, and 2009.
Pridmore attempts to memorize as many card decks as possible. In 2012, Pridmore memorized 598 cards. Johannes Mallow, the eventual Championship winner, memorized 1144 cards.
A few competitors told Vintiner that the memorization method consists of 'creating visual stories to go with the numbers.' For example, one might say, 'I woke up at 7, put on 1 sock, and cooked 3 eggs for breakfast,' to memorize the number 713.
Mattias Ribbing of Sweden placed 15th in the competition. Ribbing placed 8th in the abstract images discipline, which requires contestants to recall as many sequences of abstract images as possible.
Lakshman Dongari of India placed 3rd in the 2012 Indian Memory Championship. At the World Championship, he placed 34th.
Lu Ming of China placed 38th. Her best event was a 15-minute event where contestants must memorize either the first or last name in as many photos as possible.
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