Jon Soohoo, Los Angeles Dodgers photographer since 1985 and former South Pasadena resident, presented a selection of photographs handpicked from his entire career last week in a room at the public library overflowing with blue.
A line of people hoping to squeeze into the South Pasadena Library Community Room extended from its steps all the way to the sidewalk along El Centro Street even after the event began, prompting Soohoo to apologize for not being able to accommodate everyone.
“I really didn’t expect this kind of turnout,” he said. “It is really an honor to do this in South Pasadena, the place where I raised my kids.”
Soohoo organized his work into four separately-themed slide shows: Dodgers photographs from 1985 to the start of this season, pictures from his career outside of Dodgers baseball, a collection of Vin Scully shots, and photos from the Dodgers’ historic ongoing season. After each section, Soohoo answered questions from the evening’s moderator, longtime Dodgers historian Mark Langill, as well as from audience members.
Before introducing Soohoo, Langill reflected on South Pasadena’s influence on his own journey with the Dodgers. “How cool to be able to do a program at your home town library, because I can look at that front lawn of the library and think back 45 years ago when I bought my very first book about the Dodgers,” he recalled. “It was for 10 cents. Later that summer I went to my first game, and I can still remember my exact seat.”
Such Dodgers nostalgia characterized the first half of the event, which featured photos of Kirk Gibson’s homer in game one of the 1988 World Series and shots from Soohoo’s early years with the team. However, an energy emanating from the team’s current success became palpable as the presentation of this year’s photos approached.
When asked to name his favorite shot from this year, Soohoo said that every night seems to bring another miraculous comeback or moment, but that he would have to go with the most recent. “That’s hard to say, but I’d probably go with Yasiel Puig hitting that walk off,” said Soohoo, referring to the right fielder’s game-winning two-run double a day earlier.
One of the topics Soohoo addressed was his process for capturing aerial shots on the field, where he attaches a camera to a fishing rod and uses his exclusive field access to position the camera perfectly. Another amusing topic was his experience shooting celebratory scenes in crowded locker rooms where champagne is spraying every which way. The most difficult part, he maintains, is protecting himself, not his equipment (he has a separate set of waterproof cameras).
Soohoo also spoke about the challenge of gathering 37 years of work, some of which is stored in the Dodgers’ archives in Atlanta, and about his initial inspiration to become a sports photographer.
“The young Jon Soohoo,” said the lifelong USC Trojan fan, “was going to the Coliseum with his mom and dad, and saw the seats near the field and said, ‘Mom, how do we get down there?’”
The banter between Langill and the understated Soohoo made the question and answer interludes entertaining as well as informative. In introducing his second slide show, Soohoo nonchalantly said, “Here is the other stuff I shoot,” causing Langill to cut in.
“I have to interject,” said the celebrated Dodgers historian, chuckling, “‘The other stuff I shoot’—that would be the Rose Bowl, Super Bowls, the Stanley Cup, a NASA launching, stuff like that.”
Some of the photos from Soohoo’s presentation below: