Interview: Sports Photographer Steven Freeman

Two years ago I got an email from a good friend asking if I had extra High Holiday tickets (hot commodity I know=)). It was for a man by the name of Steven Freeman. Turns out Steven is one hell of a good guy and a sports photographer (doing a lot of shoots for the Detriot Pistons). I have seen his stuff and it is awesome. In October I interviewed Steven and here is what he had to say:


The Great Rabbino: Hey Steven its been about a year hows it going?

Steven Freeman: Things are good. October is one of my favorite months with MLB playoffs, NFL and NBA all at once.

TGR: So, Steven you have been taking pictures for the Detroit Pistons for a while now. How did you get that gig?

Steven: It’s an interesting story. I was photographing the writer Adam Rapp for his new book jacket in 2000 and he happened to bring along his girlfriend. I used the last few frames to do some portraits of them together and made a couple 8×10 prints. A few weeks later Adam mentioned his girlfriend gave the prints to her mom who was married to Bill Davidson the owner of the Pistons. Adam commented how much she liked the photographs and said she was going to call me. Truth is, I hear that all time so didnt think much of it. A few weeks later Karen Davidson called and asked if I would be interested in photographing her husband. I did his official portrait as well the team President Tom Wilson. I’ve photographed for the team ever since.

TGR: What makes photographing athletes fun? Have you ever gotten to play with any of the players?

Steven: Athletes are especially interesting simply because Im such a big fan and appreciate their talents. It’s fascinating to see them up close without all the action, see what they are really like in person, and talk sports for real. Very often they ask me all about photography. The conversations are very much the same as ones you and I’ve had. I’ve played at the Pistons practice center with Jason Maxiel and Lindsey Hunter, afterward one of the coaches asked if I was a free agent. I said yes I am. He responded “I’m not surprised.” It was great fun. I’ve played with Michael Ray Richardson–he shots 3s from way behind the arc.I’ve also shot around with different players over the years during. I once stole the ball from Tim Hardaway during a Dream Team 2 session. Rebounded for Shaq. Worked out with Rip Hamilton.

TGR: Who is the best player you have shot? Has any shoot been better than all the rest?

Steven: Part one is easy–Michael Jordan. I photographed him during the 1997 all star game in Cleveland. All the shoots are different, it’s hard to pick just one. I photographed Chauncy Billups and Tayshaun Prince having a pregame ritual brunch at a restaurant for SI, it was so cool being behind the scenes with them being themselves, not posing, just being regular guys. No one had ever gone with them before, not even anyone from the team, it was nice to have their trust. I photographed Deion Branch for SI right after winning the MVP of the Super Bowl, it just amazed me how he insisted on calling Mr Freeman all through the shoot. Last season I photographed Ray Lewis for NBC Sunday Night Football, the shoot was geared around cooking for game night, it was a little surreal being around one of the fierest NFL players of all time, seeing for myself that he’s actually very funny and down to earth. One more was Mind that Bird who won the Kentucky Derby this year–her photos are some of my favorites.

TGR: Have you ever shot any Jewish players? What was that like?

Steven: During high school I attended the 1981 Maccabiah games and traveled with the American Basketball team. I was really just a young fan so it was a big thrill. Future NBA star Danny Schayes was the the center piece of the team. Willie Sims who was dubbed the Super Six Man at LSU was also on the team, afterward he played several years in Israel. It was such a thrill to be amongst the athletes, in fact it was the early impetus that set my future in motion. A few years later NBA Hall of Fame legend Dolph Schayes who was my neighbor hired me to photograph at his basketball camp, it was my first sports-photographer related job. I first met NBA ref Dick Bavetta there, 9 years later he was pleasantly surprised when we were reunited at the NBA for a shoot. Turns out I just photographed him again this week for the league, the morning after the refs signed their new contract-that was exciting and fun.

TGR: If you could shoot one athlete who would it be and why (former or present)?

Steven:It would be really interesting to photograph LT, he was so intense and possibly the best Linebacker of all time. Smokin’ Joe Frazier would also be a great subject. I’m a golfer so add Tiger to the list. Top three, ok?

TGR: What kind of other stuff do you shoot? How can people find your work?

Steven: Lately I have been photographing three different cookbooks with Chef Emeril Lagasse. I have photographed politicians for the US State Department including sessions with President Clinton and President Bush. In fact the first day on the job I photographed Prime Minister Ehud Barak when he was in NY for the UN meetings. I’ve also photographed various celebs and business people for magazines such as People, Time, Entertainment Weekly, NBC, Nike and many more. People find my work on my site:

TGR: Last and most importantly…how in the world can you be a Pistons fan?

Steven: That’s easy. The Pistons are one of the rare teams in sports who play the right way, as a team, and play hard. They’re also a bunch of great guys. There’s nothing like the noise in The Palace of Auburn Hills!

TGR: Steven thanks for joinging us on TGR. We will keep an eye on your stuff. Talk to you next Rosh Hashanah?

Steven: Absolutely! Have a great year. Good luck with your Bulls. Go Pistons!

Below are some of Steven’s pictures. Great stuff.
And Let Us Say…Amen.
-Jeremy Fine


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