Tobias Zielony (1974, Wuppertal – lives and works in Berlin) is known for his photographic depiction of juvenile minorities in suburban areas – a subject he already set out with during his studies in Photography at the University of Wales (Newport) before studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig under Timm Rautert.
For his first book project “Behind the Block” (2004) he then extended his research to four European cities to observe adolescents in public spaces often during night times. He photographs them in their particular social and architectural environments, emphasizing the moment when they do not fit neatly either into our image of them or into their own self-image. Their presence in the images speaks of two conficting desires: of seeking identifcation with the conformist gestures of a globalized youth culture and of expressing one’s own in-dividuality.
His research includes themes and realities such as structural change, migration and drug abuse, as well as sexwork as in “Big Sexyland” (2006-2008) and “Jenny, Jenny” (2013). For “Manitoba” (2009-2011) Tobias Zielony spent time with adolescents of indigenous origins living in Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba, Canada. His critical approach to documentarism manifests in a specific aesthetic and relationship with fiction. People are often portrayed in a casual fashion that is sensitive of the visual language, gestures and poses a person uses to set their stage.
In 2010 he produced the Vele project in collaboration with Galleria Lia Rumma, dedicated to the homonymous housing complex conceived in the 60s – 70s by architect Franz Di Salvo in the Scampia district, on the northern suburbs of Naples. The project was presented in two major solo exhibitions at the MAXXI in Rome, and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2012.
In 2015, with the project “The Citizen” was among the artists invited to exhibit in the German Pavilion, curated by Florian Ebner during the 56th Venice Biennale.
Tobias Zielony is a professor in photography at the HFBK Hamburg since 2022.