TOBIAS ZIELONY- ‘TRONA’

Words: LIZZY SHORT
November 13, 2013

In 2008, Berlin based photographer Tobias Zielony took a trip to Trona, Los Angeles, a place declared as the ‘armpit of America’ by its own inhabitants. Populated chiefly by crystal meth addicts, the impoverished desert land provides a clientele that your favourite fictional ice cook could only dream of, and fitted in perfectly with Zielony’s […]


’13 Ball’ (2008)

In 2008, Berlin based photographer Tobias Zielony took a trip to Trona, Los Angeles, a place declared as the ‘armpit of America’ by its own inhabitants.

Populated chiefly by crystal meth addicts, the impoverished desert land provides a clientele that your favourite fictional ice cook could only dream of, and fitted in perfectly with Zielony’s devotion to photographing poor, marginalized groups in society.

Having previously rendered exhibitions from his visits to dilapidated areas of Bristol, Naples and Marseilles, Zielony took to the more isolated, yet similarly run-down town of Trona to reveal what happens when social and institutional structures fall apart, leaving people to their own devices.

The eighteen part series documents the lives of cavalier drug dealers, hop-headed youths and prison runaways, exposing a flip-side to the American Dream.

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‘Two Cigarettes’ (2008)

‘Two Cigarettes’, underlines the absurdity of Trona as a lavish wasteland, posing questions concerning life in a place suffering from an absence of state support. The cigarettes represent a frivolous overindulgence that is reflected in Trona itself, a town that ignores and lacks basic utilities, yet has a superfluous supply of amphetamines and narcotics.

Meanwhile ‘Lighter’ delves into the social structures formed in a town filled with self proclaimed junkies. The photo latches on to components closely resembling that of a family portrait in terms of composure. With the playfulness of the phallic lighter, the photo captures an element of affection and affinity between the subjects, emotions that are universal, demonstrating that such feelings are not necessarily quantified by context.

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‘Lighter’ (2008)

The focal part of the exhibition is perhaps the photo of Trona’s desolate looking high street accompanied by a slideshow of quotes from one of the town’s cynical inhabitants. The phrasing is so authentic that it seems genuinely difficult to abandon an internal L.A accent whilst reading them.

‘Ramshackle’ (2008)

The dweller compares the town to ‘Hiroshima after the bomb’, revealing that convicts flee to the place due to its status as an isolated no-mans land. Although he is wholly negative about the town, he reveals that he bought a house for a $1000, and that as the owner of a motorbike, he can have his pick of the local Lolita-esque high school girls, portraying Trona as a twisted, long forgotten paradise.

Ultimately, he ponders, ‘The crazy Arabs might blow up Los Angeles, but Trona, who cares about Trona?’.

The humorous yet controversial way in which the exhibition is delivered is reflective of Ziolny’s approach towards capturing photos, and on the whole, the sentiment of an off-the-beaten-track town. An illustrative, yet unobtrusive documentation of life at the rim of Death Valley, ‘Trona’ is set to be one of Zielony’s most dignifying exhibitions to date.

Tobias Zielony is currently exhibiting ‘Trona’ at the Berlinische Galerie, Kreuzberg 

Please click here for the artist’s profile.

All images courtesty of © Tobias Zielony and KOW, Berlin


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