Helmut Völter
Masanao Abe: Cloudgraphy (1929–38/2015)
35 mm b/w transferred to digital, silent

In the late 1920s, the Japanese physicist Masanao Abe built an observatory with a view of Mount Fuji. From it, over the course of fifteen years, he recorded the clouds that surrounded the mountain. He was interested in the scientific question of how the air currents around Fuji could be visualized by means of film and photography. Albeit unintentionally, Abe’s motifs fit into a long iconographic tradition: the mountain and the clouds. For decades his archive was left untouched in a Tokyo garden shed. Helmut Völter, who discovered Abe’s legacy while working on his book “Cloud Studies,” sifted through the images of the passionate cineaste who saw a combination of individual images, moving pictures and stereo recordings as the ideal form of scientific evidence. The mere contemplation of these dynamic cloud photographs centring on snow-covered Fuji seems to lift the viewer into the air. (Anne König)


Masanao Abe (1891–1966) was a Japanese physicist and specialist on clouds. In 1927, Abe established an independent observatory in Gotemba for his research on the clouds around Mount Fuji. He recorded and analyzed the forms and movements of clouds using film and photography in order to understand the air currents near the mountain. His field studies were completed by experimental, self-constructed wind tunnels. Abe’s scientific articles, published in Japanese and English, reached an international audience. In 1941, he published the results of his work in his thesis »Mountain Clouds, Their Forms and Connected Air Currents«.

Helmut Völter (*1978, Berlin) is an artist and graphic designer. His research on scientific cloud photography and the Japanese scientist Masanao Abe resulted in the exhibition »Cloud Studies« (shown in Braunschweig, Winterthur, Rotterdam) and in the books »Cloud Studies« (Spector Books, 2011) and »The Movement of Clouds around Mt. Fuji: Photographed and Filmed by Masanao Abe« (Spector Books, 2016). The latter received the »Prix du livre photo-texte« at the Rencontres d’Arles in 2017.