The background story: from Agfa to ORWO and beyond

The beginnings of the ORWO story began under a different name: Agfa. Among other things, the world's first multilayer color film was produced under this name. In 1964, the company was then renamed ORWO, an acronym for ORiginal WOlfen, the location of the production facility.

For almost 100 years, ORWO films conquered the world. Then a new trend emerged: digital photography. ORWO production followed suit and rebuilt its in-house production lines in line with the times - color film and our original ORWO fell more and more into oblivion. Until today.

ORWO is a brand with history and future - below you will learn more about the one and the other.

1909 - 1944

The beginning

In 1909, Berlin-based AGFA (stock corporation for aniline fabrication) decided to expand their production capacities. On July 24, 1909, they were granted permission to erect a film factory in Wolfen..



On July 19th, 1910, the Wolfen film factory was permitted to start production. Throughout the 1920’s and 30’s, the main product was Kine positive film. From there, the factory continuously expanded both in capacity and in product range.



In 1936, Agfa Wolfen presented the new Agfacolor film to the public. This was a milestone in the history of photography.

Agfacolor was first ever multi-layer color film, and received the "Grand Prix" at the Paris World Exposition in 1937. This principle is still at the core of color film production to this day.

The film factory was also successful in other areas: with the PeCe fibre, the first ever fully synthetic fibre was produced in Wolfen in 1934.

1945 - 1969

Effects of the Second World War

In 1945, the end of the Second World War did not arrive without an effect on the production site. Both the Americans and the Russians uncovered production secrets, caused extensive factory disassembly and withdrew a large number of specialists.

Change of name to a state-owned company

On the last day of 1953, Agfa Wolfen was returned to the GDR by the USSR as one of the last reparations companies. At this time the company shared the trademark with Agfa Leverkusen.

ORiginal WOlfen - ORWO

A political decision of the GDR government took place in 1964: the film factory sold its trademark rights to the "sister company" in the FRG and changed its global name to ORWO (ORiginal WOlfen).

The new label`s market launch was the largest advertising campaign that the GDR had ever done in business abroad. Due to economic and political requirements, ORWO focused more and more on customers in the Eastern bloc, especially the USSR. This meant a constant demand for products, but also increased the scientific-technical distance from the leading producers in the western world.

1970 - 1989

The expansion of the product portfolio

In 1970, the now-new Kombinat also began developing and producing other information recording materials, such as magnetic, video and computer tapes.;

The golden age of ORWO

In 1989, a total of 14,500 employees were employed at the Wolfen site, encompassing an area of 165 hectares. They produced 40 million square meters of base material, of which 50 percent was processed to raw film.

There were 2,500 assemblies, producing a total of 200 different film types. The production height of magnetic recording materials was 2 million square meters, and in the chemical fibre sector, around 100,000 tons of various pulp, viscose products and special products were delivered.

1990 - 2000


In 1990, the company was transformed into ORWO AG (stock corporation).

End of film production

In 1994 the Treuhand decided to liquidate the film factory. This meant the end of the production of films in Wolfen.

Acquisition and insolvency

In 1995, the Berlin photo merchant Heinrich Mandermann joined ORWO and on April 1, 1996, ORWO films went on sale again. However, these were no longer produced on site, but merely assembled. As a result of an illness of the investor, the company financing was no longer given.

In 1997, therefore, insolvency was the consequence.

Takeover and new foundation

1999 Lintec Computer AG takes over the company. PixelNet AG and ORWO Media GmbH are founded for this purpose.

The existing large laboratory is technically prepared for digital photography - thus a new era begins at ORWO.

This heralded the change from analog photography to digital photography. With the PixelNet brand, ORWO launched an online store where a wide variety of photo products could be produced and sold, for example: Photo prints, posters, photo books, canvases, mugs and many other products. Thereby everything that the digital photography heart desires. 

Over the years, 3 other brands joined the photo business under ORWO: Foto Quelle, Photo Dose and myFOTO.

Thus, the cult brand ORWO fell more and more into oblivion internationally - but not for the ORWO employees and fans.

ORWO is a brand with history and a future. And that is exactly why ORWO is coming back!

2022 -ORWO is back

ORWO merch

Since June 2022, everyone can now become part of the ORWO family. With statement shirts, hoodies, sweat jackets, sweatpants and shopping bags, some ORWO spirit can once again be spread around the world with the iconic ORWO logo.

New ORWO everything

But of course it doesn't remain only with the merch articles. The ORWOnauts are busy thinking, tinkering and crafting in the background - let us surprise you.
Sometime in 2023, it will get loud. It will be colorful. It will be retro. It will simply be ORWO!