There was someone outside my door. For the tenth time I went to the apartment door and stared through the peephole for minutes. I had spent hundreds of euros to install a steel door and a new lock after calling the police twice in one night. Now my knees were shaking and I was sure they would introduce gas into my apartment. The next day I told my friends about it, and they offered me to stay with them. I also made an appointment with the psychiatrist. In the meantime, I even suspected harmless subway passengers as spies. I was convinced that I needed help if I was so terrorized. The psychiatrist listened to my story and prescribed me 6 mg of risperidone. After that it became quieter and foggy. My condition improved.
But I paid a high price for it. Because with the psychosis, the drugs also drove away my artistic urge. Before, I had photographed a lot, now no more. A void arose in my life when photography suddenly stopped. What should I do? How should I spend the day? First I reclaimed my apartment and removed the motion detectors on the balcony. On my visits to the apartment I was convinced: The enemy would also come over the balcony to the 2nd floor. Then I smoked and spent a lot of time on Facebook. For a short moment I volunteered in a 3rd world shop. But they couldn’t cope with my sedation at all.
A look back at the year 1999: The sun blinked and I woke up outside on a park bench. At the end of the subway line, I had gotten drunk and lay down. That was the highlight of my journey from the province to the big advertising world. For some reason, I felt the need to prove myself in this world back then. As part of my study internship, I had made it to the strategy department of a large advertising agency in Hamburg. Another highlight followed in Hamburg: I was sleepwalking naked and locked myself out. I would have had good reasons not to put up with this madness in the agency. Half a year before, I had an MS relapse. No physical damage had remained, but mentally I was shaken. The legs had felt numb, I could still walk. In the end, I ended up in the hospital. There I was flooded with Cordison. The disturbances went back. In the hospital, I got a phone call from a man who said goodbye to someone forever. Then REHA, which I broke off. The fate of the other patients was too close to me. My family and friends were close to me and caught me in the situation. The uncertainty of what could come was the worst.
As a child, I was heavily involved in the Catholic Church and attended it three times a week. On Tuesdays, I was an altar boy in the service, on Fridays I sang in the children’s choir and attended the service, and on Sundays was the big service. The first time I confessed, I opened the door to the confessional and closed it again immediately. I had expected there to be a chair there, but there wasn’t. Although I wasn’t really religious, I enjoyed the contact with other children and the transcendent did me good. Of course, there were also exceptions, such as when a sister said to us in the late 70s: “If you think of the devil, you go to hell”. In the evening, I lay in bed and tried desperately not to think of the devil. What remained of that time? My love for rituals, pathos and staging. In 2019, I projected a film triptych titled “Sin-Guilt-Purification” with the INDUSTRIETEMPEL in the laundromat in Mannheim.
After secondary school, I started an apprenticeship as an energy electronics technician at BASF, which I later completed. However, I was not really interested in the profession. My colleagues came from Palatinate villages and hunted asylum seekers or drove their motorcycles the wrong way from the motorway exit. One trainee had a fighting dog, which he locked in a room and sprayed with irritant gas to make the dog more aggressive. Instead, I read the SPIEGEL, the Zeit and Tempo every day and had a book by Charles Bukowski hidden in my overalls, which I read alone in the control room. This daily routine of the workers wore me down. I worked for another two months, but one colleague had already adjusted his behaviour to the next 40 years. The work was a disaster. We were supposed to finish assembly work within a certain time frame, but I never managed it. However, I was clear that I would only endure these two months. Back then, there was still beer in the canteen, which was cheaper than water. Coming from a working-class household, it was logical for me to do an apprenticeship at BASF. My grades were not good enough to do the Abitur at the time. At the end of the apprenticeship, a degree was the goal.
As a member of the junior national rowing team, I belonged to a minority who did an apprenticeship, while most of my colleagues did the Abitur. I later sensibly decided to study business administration with a focus on marketing and communication. During my studies, I was encouraged by a photographer in the field of advertising to drop out of my business studies in favour of photography. In 1997, at the beginning of my studies, I went to Sarajevo and took photos, which were later published in a student magazine of the university. Unfortunately, as a young and naive student, I had forgotten to apply for a passport, which meant that I had to cross the border at my own risk with my identity card. In the early morning at 3 o’clock, I stood between containers in the fog at the border and was lucky that I could finally pass. Although I had already had exhibitions, I had not dared to show my work until then. During my studies, I lived in a shared flat in a villa in the middle of the Black Forest with pointed turrets.
I could reach the university by taking a walk through the forest. I could only bear the stay in the province by visiting friends in Cologne and Berlin regularly. After finishing my studies, I moved to Berlin, where I worked for a short film festival and organized programs. I was even lucky enough to be invited to Paris with my short film program. I restructured the balance sheet so that it became eligible for funding. The festival’s accountant was overwhelmed by the changes. Together with Roman Coppola, the son of Francis Ford Coppola, I launched a short film program with innovative directors such as Music Videos – Ninja Tunes & The Directors Bureau. We were even lucky enough to meet Karl Bartos (KRAFTWERK 1975-1990) and spend time with him at the bar. Unfortunately, a planned concert event plan failed because he demanded an advance. Later there was a disaster in a media agency that fired me after half a year. I was relieved because I could finally sleep again after taking sleeping pills for six months.
From 2006 to 2010, I devoted myself intensively to photography and had a very successful exhibition in 2007. I went out every day to take pictures. In 2009, I started to secure my apartment door from the inside with chains and was almost exclusively on the road in deserted areas. I drove to Potsdam and walked from there through the countryside. Although I also had many happy moments, the combination of ambition and isolation was too much for me by the end of 2009 and I fell into a psychosis. This was also due to the fact that at that time social media was just beginning to gain importance and there were days when I had no contact with anyone.
I had to wait five years before I could get back into photography properly. In this photo-less time, I completed my third training as a computer scientist in the Brandenburg countryside. The participants were all a bit eccentric, similar to me. One participant asked me if he and his lover could stay in my mother’s guest room, he was obese and always got a cake from her. Another participant introduced himself as a man with his own house and pool, but in the end he only had a paddling pool and lived in his mother’s basement. After that I was left alone and there were exhibitions and reports about me and my work as an artist. In the end, it is always a search for one’s own place in the world, shaped by origin, insecurity, talent and goals. At 45, I had found my place.
In 2017, I really wanted to exhibit. After intensive networking, I took part in an exhibition in Ludwigshafen. The exhibition was in the pedestrian zone. Over 400 visitors came in the three weeks. Mentally everything was ok. During the exhibition there was a new motto for the year 2019, announced by the RHeinland-Pfälzischer Kultursommer: Industrial Culture. With this knowledge, I applied to the local ERnst-Bloch Zeetnrum. Sent the links to my website with the shots from 1993 of the Ludwigshafen Wallzmühle. This was followed by a meeting and the setting of the exhibition date.
In 2018, the big exhibition was prepared. The exhibition was a great success. The vernissage was very well attended and my photos beautifully presented. After a scholarship at the end of 2019, the book on the Walzmühle came out in 2020. Together with Arne Winkelmann, who had created the graphics and texts, we found sponsors who helped us to go to print.
After the second lockdown in 2020, I started to hear voices from outside. They were directed against me and scared me. At first I believed them, even though friends assured me that it was fiction. Only after a while did I realize that the voices were not real.
In the summer of 2021, I prepared an exhibition, which was very stressful. One day I sat in a café and heard a couple nearby talking about a photographer – a word that fit me. This situation triggered voices in me again. In the summer this happens more often, because many people sit outside and talk. I then hear snippets of words that refer to me.
The intensity of the voices depends on how often I had to deal with groups of people in the past. When I had photographed for two days and visited different cities, I heard my relatives talking loudly and clearly about me on the third day. That was very stressful for me. I felt persecuted and abandoned. I knew rationally that it was not real, but it sounded so real.
To cope with the voices, I took a sedative. That helped me to ignore the voices. Alternatively, I could also take a higher dosage of my neuroleptic, which I already take. However, that would affect my creativity, which is important for my work as a photographer. Luckily, I have friends who assure me what is real and what is not real. Lately, however, I can also better assess that myself and live with the voices.
As of now, I have reduced the Tavor and am tapering it off. I’m doing well at the moment. I run a lot and have a lot of fun taking photos. This year I want to do a guerrilla exhibition. And when the Germany ticket comes, I want to travel through the east and discover it. There is a main strand in my photography http://timoschuster.com/2023-2/ and side projects http://timoschuster.com/gott/ and http://timoschuster.com/luxus-schaufenster/. The doing is the goal.