In the rugged marshes and sultry heat of the Florida Everglades, a young boy named Max Freund takes pictures of everything he sees. In love with the rich beauty of nature he grew up surrounded in, he finds joy and fulfillment in capturing that beauty in the perfect shot or mesmerizing film.
Today, Max Freund ’21 studying Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and Photography in the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications, has not lost that love for capturing beauty. He is pursuing it as a full time career through his photography and filmography business, M. Freund Photography Productions.
Freund fell in love with photography at age nine as a creative escape from a world he didn’t naturally succeed at: school. Throughout his early school years, Freund struggled to perform well academically and found joy for himself in the wonder and exploration of the outside world and capturing what he saw in a frame.
When he was diagnosed with dyslexia and an auditory processing disorder in the sixth grade, Freund resisted the idea of working with tutors and teachers to overcome his learning disabilities and continue to learn effectively in the classroom.
His father decided to strike a deal with him. His father told him that he would buy Freund any camera he wanted as long as Freund agreed to work with his tutors and try to perform better in school. Naturally, photography lover that he was, Freund agreed and soon found his father taking him to a camera store to buy any camera he picked out.
“Dad took me to the camera store and said ‘you can pick any camera you want‘ and that was the deal. That was what grew passion and love for photography and allowed me to thrive in school, despite having the learning disabilities,” Freund said.
From then on, Freund and his camera were inseparable. His weekends were filled with taking pictures in the national forests or beaches. Photography allowed him to devote his passion to what he cared about and then his focus to school. As he grew older, Freund decided to make a photography business out of his hobby and creative pursuit.
In 2015 Freund incorporated his photography business and began selling his photography services for events. Though nature photography was always his passion and being a National Geographic photographer his dream profession, Freund knew that he had to start where the demand was largest and went into event and portrait photography.
“Starting out was a very much optimistic mindset. It was bootstrapping in that I set out to grow and work with clients,” said Freund of his early photography work.
From there Freund pursued photography as his career passion and dove into other realms of photography, including taking sports photography for the Daily Orange st Syracuse University.
Yet he always knew he wanted to take pictures of one thing only: nature.
For his family’s nature conservation foundation, the fStop Foundation, Freund began taking photography to raise awareness of the dual beauty and fragility of nature. “ 900 -1000 people move to Florida a day. As each person moves to Florida, that displaces green infrastructure. Natural habitats are being taking over by humans and the built environment.“
One of the films Freund produced for fStop is currently being featured in an international film festival, and his new work includes a partnership with the Florida Wildlife Federation. Through his tenacity in pursuing what he has always truly loved, Freund has come from a teenager taking photos to make a name for himself to a business owner photographing and filming his passion.
This past week Freund won top prize in the Education and Well-Being category of the iPrize and Compete CNY competitions coordinated by the LaunchPad at Syracuse University. He worked with the LaunchPad on his business model and pitch, and will now be taking his story to the finals of the New York Business Plan Competition next month.
Freund’s story of photography is a lifelong love story of a boy finding his place in the world and having the perseverance to pursue what he loved. From when taking pictures of the beauty he grew up in encouraged him to persevere in school to now when taking pictures to preserve nature’s refuges landed him international recognition, Freund’s continued determination to work for what he loved is a reminder to not back down in pursuit of what we find refuge in.
By Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied