They start at the tailgate parties and then head to the stadium while it’s still almost empty. They talk to strangers, photograph them, and move on. And last year about 700 fans paid anywhere from $9.99 to $139.99 to buy pictures of themselves at the Big House (for the top price they also got two gold-overlaid team coins). The freelance photographers—seven or eight of them at a typical game—work for the U-M sports marketing office, shooting families, dogs in Michigan sweaters, shirtless students in maize-and-blue body paint, and alumni in wigs of the same colors.
“It gets a little crowded sometimes, and you have to step sideways so you don’t get caught in the crush,” says photographer Linda Peterson, by day an administrative assistant in the College of Engineering. When the crowd gets so thick it’s difficult even to turn around, Peterson makes her way toward an entrance to get a little breathing room.
This is Fan Photo’s third year, and it’s been quite popular. Melissa Denning, a U-M promotions assistant, says about one in ten of those photographed end up
buying a copy. The photos “commemorate the experience” of a Michigan game, says Denning. Yet a handful of the people
pictured are not even Michigan fans. Peterson has photographed supporters of several other universities, including, last year, Appalachian State. “Generally when it’s Ohio State,” she observes, “they’re with a friend from Michigan.”