Last year, Ann Arbor felt like a ghost town. We attended classes online, residence halls were closed and stadiums were empty. While the pandemic is not over, the University of Michigan seems alive again. Students flood the Diag at 10 minutes to the hour, student organizations are hosting events left and right and football is back and better than ever (or at least the last few seasons).

We asked some Daily photographers what they are glad is back. Here is what they said:

A(live) Again

Glass Animals performs at the Crisler Center September 23, 2021. Emma Mati/Daily. Buy this photo.

Emma Mati: On Sept. 23, Glass Animals made a pit stop at the Crisler Center during their Dreamland tour. This was my first concert since the beginning of the pandemic. A year ago, it was hard to imagine events like this one–crowds packed like sardines in an indoor stadium. While events like these bring back memories of pre-pandemic life, it is evident that some COVID-19 precautions aren’t going away any time soon. There was no going backstage and meeting with the members of the band after the concert and concert goers were masked and vaxxed. Nevertheless, the band put on a great performance and the crowd was electric. Needless to say, I left the concert as a huge Glass Animals fan.

Being in the crowd

Kate Hua/Daily. Buy this photo.

Kate Hua: I didn’t realize how much I had missed going to concerts and listening to live music until I was standing in the Crisler Center watching Glass Animals perform at the Welcome Back concert. While the crowds of students were still masked up for the event, the bright neon lights, indie rock music and fun energy from the band members on stage (two of which were wearing Michigan gear) almost made me forget how different life on campus was a year ago.

Rallying with Biden

President Joe Biden speaks at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 Education center in Howell. Madeline Hinkley/Daily. Buy this photo.

Maddie Hinkley: While working with The Daily, amazing opportunities come to photograph important figures in sports, news and politics. A couple weeks ago, I was able to photograph President Joe Biden. Seeing a figure who had been on so many screens during the course of the pandemic in person felt surreal, and I’m thankful for the opportunities that The Daily has given me to take photos of figures like Biden and more.


Grace Beal/Daily. Buy this photo.

Grace Beal: After spending my freshman year of college online, I realized how much I missed everyday life pre-pandemic. The other day, I was shooting a women’s tennis match and happened to snap this picture of tennis players Andrea Cerdan and Jaedan Brown. Their smiles are infectious, and when I looked at the picture later that day, I couldn’t help but smile too. I think smiles are what I’ve missed most of all… unmasked and genuine smiles. I am so excited for a more “normal” year of college, when I can finally meet people in a real classroom. Jaedan and I actually became friends last fall in our virtual Spanish class, so taking pictures of her during her match was almost as if everything came full circle. Even though masks are still a part of our daily lives, seeing smiles like Andrea and Jaedan’s reminded me that there is a lot to look forward to.

Finally, football

Julia Schachinger/Daily. Buy this photo.

Julia Schachinger: If last year was a normal year, I would have been able to photograph my first Michigan football game at The Big House. Even though football returned last fall, it did so with no fans and limited media at each game. My dream of photographing a Michigan football game was slowly fading. But now sports are back at full capacity, and photographing the homecoming game was everything I could have ever imagined.

Game days at the Big House

Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

Gabby Ceritano: The joy and fulfillment that comes from seeing a packed stadium of students and fans in The Big House is indescribable. The roar that echoes a touchdown and the spirit of the fans, especially the students, evokes feelings of nostalgia of days past and excitement for the current moment. I finally feel like a U-M student again, cheering on my team and watching the marching band perform on Saturday afternoons, and I feel so lucky to be a part of such an amazing school.

Photographing a game day

The Daily’s Managing Photo Editors Allison Engkvist and Madeline Hinkley finally get a chance to photograph a football game in The Big House with fans. Courtesy of Zoey Holstrom. Buy this photo.

Allison Engkvist: Despite being one of The Daily’s Managing Photo Editors for almost two years, I never had the opportunity to photograph a football game in the Big House with fans. While I was able to cover some games last year, the cardboard cutouts of students and recorded cheering noises didn’t quite match the sheer energy that normally fills The Big House. Between getting action shots of the players as another touchdown was scored, or crowd shots of students they screamed “it was only a kiss” at the top of their longs from “Mr. Brightside,” my first real game in The Big House was everything I imagined it would be. And of course, I was so grateful to do it all with my co-editor Maddie by my side. As you can tell, we’ve been waiting a while to take this pic on the field (thank you to former Daily photographer Zoey Holstrom for taking it)!

A good rivalry

Tess Crowley/Daily. Buy this photo.

Tess Crowley: It felt great to be back on the sidelines photographing an electric Big Ten game with fans cheering from the stands. A flood warning and a tense rivalry with Notre Dame made for a riveting University of Michigan men’s soccer game. The grit of the team was on full display despite the heavy rain. This under-the-lights soccer game turned into a messy dance of sorts in an effort to maintain control of the field. The players were forced to remain light on their feet, yet tough in their demeanor.

Feeling at home at field hockey

Anna Fuder/Daily. Buy this photo.

Anna Fuder: Something I’m glad is back is field hockey. Because it is not a big sport like football or basketball, the team does not receive that much media coverage. As someone who played field hockey for eight years, I have always been a fan of the sport and finally got a chance to shoot a game. The whole experience made the long wait worth it.

The simple joys in life: squirrels 

Megan Ocelnik/Daily. Buy this photo.

Megan Ocelnik: While walking home from a draining day of classes, I noticed a chubby squirrel basking in the afternoon sunlight. It reminded me how much I missed campus after deciding to go home last semester due to the pandemic. I missed the friendly Diag squirrels that waltz their way over once they hear the crinkle of a snack bag or the chipmunks chasing one another among the ground crawlers. Most importantly, I missed never seeing a single skunk. I’m joking (am I?); what I really missed was being in a new place to transition into the best version of myself. And being on campus in a place like Ann Arbor is exactly that.