Neural populations that encode sensory experience should be persistently active for as long as the experience persists. However, research into visual neural activity has focused almost exclusively on onset-driven responses that cannot account for sustained perception. We used intracranial recordings in humans to determine the degree to which the presence of a visual stimulus is persistently encoded by neural activity. The correspondence between stimulus duration and response duration was strongest in early visual cortex and gradually diminished along the visual hierarchy, such that is was weakest in inferior-temporal category-selective regions. A similar posterior-anterior gradient was found within inferior temporal face-selective regions, with posterior but not anterior sites showing persistent face-selective activity. The results suggest that regions that appear uniform in terms of their category selectivity are dissociated by how they temporally represent a stimulus in support of real-time experience, and delineate a large-scale organizing principle of the ventral visual stream.