Meet the director of sports photography at the University of Arizona: Mike Christy

When it comes to football, many believe that the coaches, players, cheerleaders and squad are the key elements in making a game exciting and fun; however, other people on stage and behind the scenes help immortalize the game and capture moments that people may want to see again when they graduate. Michael “Mike” Christy, director of sports photography at the Arizona Athletics department, knows exactly how to do it.

“Football game day is probably one of the busiest and longest days for our photography department,” Christy said.

The day usually starts with a Costco run.

“[I’m] get some water, grab some snacks, and usually get to that room three to four hours before kick-off, and start setting up tables, assigning seating for where the photographers are going to sit and go up, make sure there’s space, make sure there’s plenty of list cards available,” Christy said.


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Christy graduated in 2006 from Cienega High School in the Vail School District and initially considered photography as a hobby. He first applied to the University of Arizona School of Art, but was turned down and decided to go the business route instead. Christy was the photo editor at Daily Wildcat in the fall semester of 2008, then followed the path of journalism in school by taking several courses in journalism and photography.

Portrait of Mike Christy, director of sports photography at the Arizona Department of Athletics. (Courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

Once everything is set up for game day, Christy breaks down what game day photography entails.

“The most needed element is the best sporting action, the peak moments, recording the story of the game for posterity and for history. Beyond that, we want to document this scene,” Christy said.

Christy finds answers to the questions “How is the atmosphere in the stadium?” and “What’s a wide-angle view from the top when teams are running out?” to determine where to take pictures.

“We divide and conquer. I’m the director of photography, so I’m mainly in charge and the first person of our social teams and [sports information director] teams travel for live game action photography. We have the ability to send photos directly from our cameras to a Wi-Fi hotspot that I keep in my pocket,” Christy said.

Christy eventually became a sports photographer with the Daily Wildcat and ended up playing in the 2011 NCAA Tournament when the University of Arizona advanced to the Elite Eight.

In the few hours before kick-off, he and the team fanned out to assess the situation.

“What does the tailgating situation look like? Where are the fans having fun? Are the teams about to arrive for the Wildcat Walk? We’re getting into position so we can shoot this from different angles,” Christy said. “Someone will be up in the stands shooting it and then someone might be next to the fans who have their hands out to shoot and cover it.”

Christy interned with the Arizona Daily Star and was hired full-time as a photographer after graduating. He worked with them for seven years until opening the photography coordinator position at Arizona Athletics in 2019.

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Christy has an idea in mind if the team wins or loses and collects any additional photography she might need to capture the full experience.

“We try to cast a wide net a week before the game from all departments asking, ‘Hey, is there anything in particular you need to photograph? “, Did he declare.

He called it a privilege to document the history of the sports program.

“In our approach to photography, we always seek to answer the question, ‘What was it like when the blank filling happened?'” Christy said. “Arizona Athletics photography doesn’t begin or end with me. … My job is to be the guardian of that period of history and hand over the keys to the next person.

The University of Arizona’s first home game will be against Mississippi State on September 10.

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