The title Cloud Album refers to a stunning scientific album initiated by the Belgian meteorologist Jean Vincent (1851–1932). Vincent studied cloud nomenclature for more than twenty years, becoming the first director of the Institut Royal Météorologique when it was established in Brussels in 1913. The album would come to take on a life of its own, involving hobbyist and professional photographers alike in its composition. The resulting compendium – resembling both a scientific document, such as a herbarium, as well as a family album – reflects the efforts of successive generations, each as fascinated as the next by this ephemeral phenomenon.
Cloud Album features 250 works including 200 photographs and 50 albums and books, ranging from the first cloud nomenclature proposed by British chemist and amateur meteorologist Luke Howard in 1803 to a view of a large storm system taken from Apollo 9 in 1969. The works range from the origins of photography to the dawn of satellite imagery, drawn from the collection of the Archive of Modern Conflict (AMC) in London, an organization founded in 1991 and dedicated to the collection and preservation of vernacular photographs, objects, artifacts, curiosities, and ephemera. Representations of clouds and the sky have been a focus of the AMC’s vast and thematically diverse repository from its outset. Cloud Album seeks to celebrate the breadth of beauty of images of clouds and the uniqueness of the passionate practice – of scientists, amateurs, and artists alike – of photographing the sky. Through this, the exhibition draws a picture of the history of the sky, the history of photography, and the ways in which they are intertwined.
With thanks to Michelle Wilson, Kalev Erickson, Ed Jones, Lizzie Powell, Giulia Shah and James Welch (London); Olivia Bishop, David Franklin and Parker Kay (Toronto); David Medina (Colombia) and Kei Osawa (Tokyo), and with gratitude to David Thomson for his inspiration and vision.
Based on the Archive of Modern Conflict Collection, the exhibition has been facilitated by loans from The University Museum, the University of Tokyo (UMUT) and Brad Feuerhelm.