Jon SooHoo reflects on his career as a sports photographer | Sports

BBefore Jon SooHoo embarked on a career as a professional sports photographer, which included thousands of baseball games and hundreds of different baseball players as the Dodgers’ official team photographer, he worked on his craft. during his college years at USC.

As the photo editor of the college newspaper, he had no idea that one of his classmates would be someone that SooHoo years later would try to capture, because this student turned out to be one. of the greatest baseball pitchers of all time.

“At the Daily Trojan, I remember giving Randy Johnson his first photo essay. It was to capture The Who’s final concert at the LA Coliseum. He photographed the event, and it was one of the many rock concerts he shot as a very good photographer who has so many beautiful images,” SooHoo said. “He had such a great playing career after baseball, taking pictures, spending a lot of his life doing it, taking pictures with his guns.”

Ironically, it was Johnson’s left-arm cannon that propelled him from the Trojans baseball team and Hall of Fame school photographer after a 22-year major league career. SooHoo, of course, couldn’t hit Johnson’s fastball. He also couldn’t figure out how to capture the essence of the 6-foot-10 Johnson standing atop a 10-inch pitcher’s mound.

“The hardest thing for me with him was the 400 millimeters – it’s geek camera stuff – lens on a film body at Angel Stadium. When he threw there, I could never get him in horizontally. He wouldn’t come back. His head would be cut off or his shoulder would be cut off. I couldn’t fit his whole body in Anaheim, and even at Dodger Stadium it was tough with his height. My biggest issue with Randy Johnson…was his size,” SooHoo recalled.

“Jon SooHoo was instrumental in kick-starting my college photography career by getting me to shoot for The Daily Trojan,” Johnson told LA Downtown News. “He would give me my assignments for the newspaper, and that was the basis of my animation photojournalism major at USC.”

Johnson never played for the Dodgers. But for so many hundreds and hundreds of gamers who have since 1985, the first year SooHoo started shooting games in Chavez Ravine, he’s been a staple, camera in hand, helping document the journeys of one of the most popular and emblematic. sports brands in the world.

For SooHoo, the job has been the opportunity of a lifetime. Born in Boyle Heights, he attended LA Marshall High School in Los Feliz. He actually majored at USC in gerontology (the study of the aging process).

His most vivid photography-related childhood memories date back to when he was in eighth grade. A fifth generation Chinese American — his grandfather Peter is the founder of LA Chinatown — SooHoo’s uncle was active in taking family photos during and around the holiday season. It was around this time that SooHoo took his first photography class at school, where he soon found himself immersed in the darkroom.

At USC, SooHoo worked as a lab technician, processing and developing all of the film while editors helped build the periodical. As he reached his freshman year, SooHoo was collecting photography gear and building his own portfolio while taking advantage of USC’s nationally acclaimed athletic department by filming football and basketball games on campus.

He once shot a women’s basketball game featuring future U.S. Olympian Cheryl Miller, and as he was wrapping up, Clippers team photographer Andy Bernstein arrived at the Sports Arena to prepare for the NBA game in that night. A friendship quickly blossomed, with Bernstein preparing to play a pivotal role in SooHoo’s budding career.

“That was the start of NBA pictures. I would shoot the Clippers at USC and the Lakers at the Forum,” SooHoo said. Showtime era. It was a great way to get my feet wet.

It was 1985, and Bernstein was also the Dodgers’ official team photographer. SooHoo then arrived at historic Dodger Stadium with Bernstein — and didn’t really leave.

“One of the things I’m so lucky for is that the Dodgers place a premium, a high value, on their photography. It started with club owner Peter O’Malley,” SooHoo said. “I’ve always been able to do my own thing, and collectively there’s a great appreciation for history here. I’ve been shooting the Dodgers for 35 years now.

“Take, for example, Dave Roberts. I covered for him when he was a player here. Now I cover it as a manager here.

What has contributed to SooHoo’s success is the type of content it strives to capture. The team plays 162 matches. He doesn’t focus too much on the game on the pitch. It’s the behind-the-scenes access he’s allowed that really helps tell the franchise’s particular story.

“I’m a photojournalist, but being on the side of the team, I like the images I take outside the lines of play. With social media, you’re now seeing more photos off the pitch than ever before.

Baseball, more than any other sport, is about patience, and patience is essential to any good entertainer.

SooHoo likes the rhythm of a baseball game and the pace of nine innings. He is, after all, quick to say that he is in no rush while the game is going on, except for the occasional restroom break during the game.

SooHoo’s approach to work was also key, he felt, when he snapped one of his all-time favorite Dodgers photos.

“It was the game of the ancients. I wanted Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw together, and I ended up taking a picture of them walking down the hall together. It was just a moment when two legendary Dodger players were walking and talking – nothing extraordinary, really – but it was nothing staged. No one else was in sight.

“It was just a baseball moment for them, but for me, that photo will always be the favorite photo I’ve taken. It was 2015; it brought the old and the new together, in that era.

And, like any good photographer, there are also those who have escaped. It’s just ironic that the first image that comes to mind of SooHoo happened around 20 years ago. Yet he gets a regular reminder about it.

“Dave ‘Doc’ Roberts, our manager now, we were in Houston, and the field there in center field was set up in a weird way in that the center fielder had to come back on a flyball deep and in somehow climb a mini hill with a mast as part of.

“That has since been removed, but he made a great play on a ball hit in that area. It was an incredible play that he made because not only did he catch the ball, but he also escaped a fan who was trying to catch it. I saw it, but the problem is that I saw it on TV. I had gone to the bathroom and was looking at a monitor.

“I’m happy to have been taken out of the socket, but I’m disappointed to have missed it. And he still reminds me of that today. Often.”

Stewart C. Hartline