Even the most casual sports fan will recognize the work of Jon SooHoo, the legendary team photographer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A fourth generation Angeleno, SooHoo graduated from John Marshall High School and USC, joined the Dodgers in 1985, and became the official team photographer in 1995.
As team photographer, SooHoo is embedded with the Dodgers for two-thirds of the year, from Spring Training to home games, away games, and community events.
SooHoo has captured some of the greatest moments in modern Dodgers history, including Kirk Gibson's iconic 1988 World Series home run, Clayton Kershaw's 2014 no-hitter, Vin Scully's final broadcast, Justin Turner's walk-off home run in the 2017 NLCS, and many more.
During his career, SooHoo has covered all of the local sports teams, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup, and the Daytona 500. He's also photographed Vin Scully's Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House and even a Space Shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
As Los Angeles celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month throughout the month of May, we explore the L.A. legacy of Jon SooHoo, from his extraordinary photos to his grandfather's role in creating one of the city's most popular and historic cultural hubs.
Jon's grandfather, Peter SooHoo Sr, is widely acknowledged as the co-founder of New Chinatown. According to the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, Peter was a USC graduate and the first Chinese American employee of the Department of Water and Power.
Because he was fluent in Cantonese and English, Peter was able to act as a liaison between the Chinese American community and the City of Los Angeles when the residents of Old Chinatown were displaced to make way for Union Station.
"Back then, Chinese could not own land," says Ken Chan, the third generation owner of Phoenix Bakery in Chinatown. "But [Jon's] grandfather was very smart, he formed a corporation and a corporation could buy land. And that's really how Chinatown got started."
" My kids will always be able connect with their great-grandfather down here in Chinatown."
A plaque in Chinatown's Central Plaza commemorates Peter SooHoo and Herbert Lapham, a land agent for Santa Fe Railway, for their vital roles in making New Chinatown a reality.
SooHoo says, "The first time I brought my kids [to Chinatown] I remembered where my grandfather's plaque was, so I walked my three sons over and we took a photo in front of it. It was a chance for me to connect my kids to their roots. They'll always be able connect with their great-grandfather down here in Chinatown."
Dodgers and Diversity
The year-long celebration of Jackie Robinson's centennial is a reminder that the Dodgers organization has been a leader in diversity for decades, from Fernandomania to Hideo Nomo, Chan Ho Park (the first South Korea-born player in MLB history), Chen Chin-Feng (the first Taiwan-born MLB player), to current pitchers Hyun-jin Ryu (the first South Korean starting pitcher of an MLB postseason game) and Kenta Maeda. And Jon SooHoo has been there to capture them all.
Clayton Kershaw's No-Hitter
SooHoo shot Clayton Kershaw's 2014 no-hitter from his position seated in the Lexus Dugout Club at the bottom of the stairs along the third baseline. The key was to capture Kershaw on the mound with the scoreboard showing all the zeros on it in the background.
"I told my sons ahead of time, when the final out happens, START SHOOTING. DON'T LOOK."
The SooHoo legacy has continued to the fifth generation. On the night of Kershaw's no-no, Jon's sons, Dalton and Tanner were taking souvenir photos of fans for Blue Prints.
As Kershaw started getting closer to the no-hitter, SooHoo wanted to be ready. "When it got to about the 5th inning, I put my one son [Dalton] on the Loge Level with one of my long lenses, and my other son [Tanner] on the Field Level on the third base side with a shorter lens to get everything aimed at Clayton. I told my sons ahead of time, when the final out happens, start shooting. Don't look."
Clayton Kershaw & Sandy Koufax
In an interview with Samy's Camera, SooHoo says that his all-time favorite Dodgers photograph isn't one of the iconic moments he captured on the field, but a quiet scene in a hallway at Dodger Stadium.
Before the Old-Timers Game on May 16, 2015 honoring the 1955 and 1965 World Series championship teams, SooHoo wanted to pose Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw for a photo in the bullpen down the left field line. With Jon leading the way and "walking backwards the entire time," he snapped a photo of Koufax and Kershaw chatting in a hallway - an unplanned and unforgettable shot.
Yasiel Puig's Walk-Off Home Run
Always looking for a creative angle to tell his stories, SooHoo has shot from the Top of the Park, helicopters, and even the Goodyear Blimp. There's an incredible photo that looks like it was captured from a drone, but the backstory is actually much more down-to-earth. As with Kershaw's no-hitter, SooHoo's instincts and experience served him well.
The Dodgers were hosting the Cincinnati Reds on July 28, 2013. It was a scoreless tie at the end of nine innings. In an interview with the Legends of Sport podcast, SooHoo said that if the game went another inning, he would go get his monopod (basically a four-foot stick) and attach his fisheye lens to it. If something happened, he would run out there - as team photographer, he's allowed to run onto the field.
"I couldn't see what I was shooting, so it was like a Hail Mary. The next thing you know, it's a billboard on Sunset."
He put the monopod up and in the bottom of the 11th, rookie Yasiel Puig hit a walk-off home run.
SooHoo started running and firing the fisheye with his remote. "I didn't realize that [Puig] actually slid into home plate. … I couldn't see what I was shooting, so it was like a Hail Mary. But once he got up he did this arm thing, the next thing you know it's a billboard down on Sunset."
SooHoo has said that one of his favorite subjects is the Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster, Vin Scully, and it shows in emotional photos like Scully's final broadcast and a close-up of Scully holding hands with Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel at the centennial ceremony. As a testament to the close relationship that SooHoo has with Scully, he was invited to the White House to photograph Scully receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 22, 2016.
Jon SooHoo's "office" is one of the true cathedrals of Major League Baseball. Since opening its gates in 1962, Dodger Stadium has hosted ten World Series and the Dodgers have won four World Championships. Through the decades, the storied ballpark has seen Hall of Famers, World Champions, no-hitters, MVPs and Cy Young Award winners. The stadium is also one of the greatest entertainment venues in the country, hosting special events that range from the Beatles to the Pope, the NHL Stadium Series, and the Harlem Globetrotters.
"Los Angeles is a wonderful city. It's where everybody belongs. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
SooHoo says, "It's an incredible honor being part of this Dodger organization. There's so much history going on in front of me, I don't think I really understand it all until maybe ten years down the road when time has passed. But during the moment I need to get the photograph."
Of his hometown, SooHoo says, "Los Angeles is a wonderful city. It's where everybody belongs. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
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