Photographic memory is a rare element that is found in less than 10% of the population. It will often be found in children, and most of them will lose this ability by the time they become adults. The concept of photographic memory is so rare that someone people don't believe it exists.
What is believed by some researchers is that photographic memory is a result of the brain processing and storing information in an abnormal manner. Many people believe that those who have photographic memories are fortunate. However, this may not be the case.
One of the problems with having a photographic memory is that you may absorb too much information, and you may have to deal with a lot of data that is irrelevant. Having to deal with large amounts of irrelevant data could reduce your ability to efficiently recall information. People who have photographic memories may also have a hard time forgetting things that they don't desire to remember. Humans are not designed to be mere databases which store tremendous amounts of information. Memory is only important when it can be used to recall information that is relevant. Being able to use your memory is much more important than simply being able to store information.
Monks who lived during the Middle Ages would enhance their memories by creating images in their minds which would allow them to store and use information that was important. It was not enough for them to just store and have access to large amounts of information. It was also important for them to use these images to create a number of connections between unrelated elements. A number of famous people were believed to have photographic memories, and some of them were Mozart and Claude Monet. However, there has been some controversy which has arisen on the topic of photographic memory.
Many professionals believe that the concept is a myth. A study was conducted on a number of chess Grandmasters, and while they are able to recall large amounts of information about positions, they performed like people who weren't masters when they were presented with chess piece positions that would not exist in a real world situation. At the same time, there has also been evidence to show that photographic memory is a real phenomenon. A woman who was studied by Charles Stromeyer was capable of remembering poetry that had been written in a different language, and she could recall the information years later.
Solomon V. Shereshevskii is another example of an individual who had memory capabilities that appeared to be photographic. He could memorize large amounts of words, and was capable of remembering them after many years had passed. While some believed that he had an unlimited photographic memory, it is very likely that he used a number of different memory techniques. In addition to this, a number of humans have been placed in the Guinness Book of Records for having abnormal memories. There have also been people with Asperger's syndrome who have demonstrated photographic memories as well.
The overall evidence for photographic memory is strong. However, it is not well understood. The brain of someone who has a photographic memory will store information in a manner which is much different than most people. It is likely that the perception of photographic memory that is viewed by most people is not quite accurate. While there are people who have extraordinary memories, it is unlikely that they are able to perfectly recall every piece of information that they are exposed to. It is likely that the debate for and against the existence of photographic memory will continue to rage on. Some savants have been known to have what appears to be a photographic memory, and the most notable example is Kim Peek.