Moving Clouds

Helmut Voelter

The Movements of Clouds around Mount Fuji, Photographed and Filmed by Masanao Abe

Starting from August 4, 1926, the Japanese physicist Masanao Abe (1891-1966) observed the movements of clouds around Mt. Fuji for over 15 years, until 1941. His belief was that by recording photographically all visible forms and behaviours of clouds, one would finally be able to deduce and understand the invisible air currents around the mountain. Abe’s now forgotten and yet unpublished work was part of my research at the JVE. His hypothesis turned out to be not wrong, but not right either: The clouds’ movements are indeed a result of the invisible air currents, but they are far too complex to be categorized or used as indicators. So, how should his assets, consisting of hundreds of photographs and films, be called today? A scientific dead end, a personal failure, a proof that something cannot be proven, a systematic collection of still and moving images without an external reference point? My book on Abe tries to keep his documents in their state of uncertainty: they are scientific evidences for a lost or yet unknown purpose, the results of an personal fascination in photography and film, and they are, intended or unintended, visual studies of form, movement, light, weather and landscape.