Computer-generated portrait a technical tour de force


Above: Portrait presented to Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus David Regan

You don’t need extraordinary vision to view a portrait given to Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus David Regan (left) of York’s Centre for Vision Research (CVR), but the work of art is itself extraordinary.

The portrait, given to Regan at a conference held in June to honour his achievements, is four-feet by three-feet, not in itself particularly unusual. But the fact that it contains an astounding 7,000 computer-generated photos of Regan illustrating various aspects of his life makes the work unique. It is, as he describes it, a technical tour de force.

Created by CVR’s Jim Zacher (right), project scientist and system administrator, the portrait is a likeness of Regan when viewed at a distance, but when seen close-up, is actually individual pictures of the professor.

Zacher had inside help with gathering photos from Regan’s wife and colleague, Marian (below, left). She is a senior research associate with CVR, with whom David Regan has written several joint papers on recording the magnetic and electrical responses of the human brain to visual stimuli, and on her mathematical models of the human visual system.

Marian Regan trawled through the family photo albums and came up with approximately 600 images, which she then secretly digitized. At close range, the same pictures that comprise the portrait of David Regan can be recognized as distinct pictures.

The photos go back to 1937, and include Regan’s earlier sporting life in the United Kingdom (he ran the 100 m against Canada in 1954 and later played cricket against Sri Lanka and Uganda), wedding photos in 1959 and photos from 35 years of scientific meetings, collaborations and awards ceremonies.

The portrait was unveiled at a banquet held to celebrate the scientific career of Regan, who retired from York at the end of June but who continues to contribute to CVR and still holds the post of professor of ophthalmology at U of T. If you want to see a version of the portrait, contact Jim Zacher at

The conference, entitled “Visual Processing of Spatial Form Defined by Luminance, Colour, Motion, Texture and Binocular Disparity”, was organized by CVR Director John Tsotsos.

For a fuller story about David Regan and the conference, see YFile’s June 18 report at