For as long as he can remember, Steve Freeman has wanted to travel to other parts of the world and photograph what he sees.
Freeman, of Galloway Township, got his first taste of that life from July 2013 to July 2014, when he spent a year in Indonesia, teaching English to children and documenting his experiences with his camera. This summer, he is planning to spend 13 weeks in Tanzania in Africa.
Freeman, 33, has been a professional photographer for the past 13 years and finds other cultures fascinating.
“What I really like is culture,” he said. “Growing up in the states, we’re called a melting pot, but we don’t see as much culture as is out there. We get bits and pieces.” Freeman majored in photojournalism and cultural anthropology at the University of Miami in Florida.
In Indonesia, Freeman taught from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Then he’d walk the streets with camera in hand. He guesses he shot 50,000 photos during that year.
“Where I was was very remote. I didn’t see another white person for six months. So because of that, everyone wanted to talk to me. Wherever they were, I was always invited. When I was walking along the streets, people would pull their cars over just to say hi, and they couldn’t speak English,” Freeman said. “If you are not Indonesian, you are a celebrity over there.”
A 2000 Atlantic City High School graduate, Freeman taught in Palangkaraya, not one of Indonesia’s major cities. Driving in any direction, you would be in the jungle in 15 minutes, he said.
Freeman slept in the house of the school’s owner.
“In Indonesia, everyone basically has servants, and the richer they are, the servants actually live with them. I was living with the servants,” Freeman said. “They were the help, basically, but to me, they were my family. In fact, their daughter was one of my first-grade students. They didn’t speak a word of English, and I didn’t speak a word of Indonesia.”
When Freeman returned to the U.S., he began looking for a chance to work overseas again. He discovered Raleigh International, a non-government organization that sponsors expeditions in five countries. Freeman chose Tanzania, where he’ll work as a volunteer photographer manager, documenting the work of the NGO.
Raleigh International brings young adults to impoverished countries where they work with local communities to help teach people about business development, sanitation and water purification. The goal is to help people become more self-sufficient and less dependent on government assistance.
Freeman expects to be the only American in his group on the Tanzania trip because Raleigh International is based in the United Kingdom and gets most of its applicants from there.
Freeman is now trying to raise $8,000 to cover the cost of the trip, including his flights, vaccinations and equipment.
“I recently found out that I will be sleeping in a tent,” Freeman said. “I need a camping pack because, from my understanding, we go on a 10-day trek, like throughout Tanzania all walking, which I’m excited about.
“I went to A.C. High,” he said. “A lot of things don’t scare me.”
Freeman plans to raise money for the trip by selling prints and framed photos from his Indonesia adventure along with portrait sessions.
He’ll be selling those photographs at the At The Shore Wine Tasting Show from 5 to 8 p.m. today at the Noyes Arts Garage Stockton University in Atlantic City, and on his Facebook page.
Amanda Stewart, the owner of At Anchor Day Spa in Northfield, is trying to help. Five of Freeman’s Indonesia photographs are on display and for sale at her spa, including a giant 40 inches by 60 inches photo of a Bali sunrise that was shot from his hotel room.
She said her clients have been very receptive. “They love Steve’s photos. They are always inquisitive about where they are from and what he was doing over there. They ask me a ton of questions,” Stewart said.