Berlin-based artist Tobias Zielony and his "fictional" archive

Tobias Zielony was born in 1973 in Wuppertal, Germany and is one of the most remarkable young photographers. His critical approach to social documentarism makes him one of the most discussed artists in contemporary photography.


The work of German artist Tobias Zielony deals with photography and film as storage medium for light and time and is based on a complex understanding of the process.

The film factory with formerly 20,000 employees in Wolfen no longer exists. Project “Blackbox Wolfen” presents a fictional archive of the factory combining still images and interviews with former employees who worked in the factory and especially in the dark rooms. These were almost exclusively women. Working in almost total darkness, cold or hot, and with various chemicals was particularly difficult. Forced labor was quite common in that times and if workers refused to work, they were locked in so-called “black boxes” and had to spend the whole day in the darkness.

Today, only a single photo company exists in Wolfen, producing a specialized black-and-white archival piqlFilm. The very unique film, carrying both images and digital code, which can survive for up to a thousand years. 

"For my project Blackbox Wolfen I used the piql know-how and their unique technology to create a fictional archive about the workers of the ORWO film factory in Wolfen, Germany. The b/w archive film used by Piql is still produced in Wolfen by Filmotec. The coperation with Piql was great, even though my questions were unusual, and my artistic approach created some challenges, we managed to solve everything collectively. Thank you!!"


Tobias Zielony creates a fictitious archive in which he relives the experiences of employees of the former film factory on old film carriers from the Federal Archives and stores the data on piqlFilm. Using piqlFilm, Zielony reflects on what will remain of such histories and who might find the material in distant futures. 

Artistic project Blackbox Wolfen is a part of the current exhibition “Mining Photography: The Ecological Footprint of Image Production” in MKG Hamburg and is curated Boaz Levin and Dr. Esther Ruelfs, Head of the Photography and New Media Collection at MKG. In cooperation with Kunsthaus WienGewerbemuseum Winterthur and the HFBK Hamburg.

“The exhibition is dedicated to the material history of key resources used for image production. Using historical photographs and contemporary artistic positions, the exhibition tells the story of photography as one of industrial production, showing the extent to which the medium has been deeply intertwined with human change of the environment and brings a radically new perspective towards this subject.”