sky kojo

Gallery Viewing: Kohjiro Kinno

Unlike so many others who’ve dedicated their lives to the craft of golf photography, Kohjiro Kinno can’t remember the last time he picked up a club. It is entirely possible it was during a short stint on his high school junior varsity team. “That shit’s expensive!” he says with a laugh.  

In fact, Kinno—or “Kojo,” as he’s affectionately called in The Golfer’s Journal office—would much rather hop on a skateboard or try to steal a wave near his Southern California home when he’s not traveling the globe in search of the next iconic golf shot to grace the cover of TGJ or Sports Illustrated. The same Thrasher grit that captured his imagination as a high schooler is still found in his golf photography. The results are angles of the game we’ve never before considered, served up with a brash elegance that only an outsider from inside the ropes could deliver.

[Captions by the photographer]

Kojo’s World

In a rare appearance on the other side of the camera, the man behind some of the game’s most memorable photos describes the world through his lens.

Evidence of the Strike

In Japan, when people throw away chopsticks I’ve seen them break them in half so they don’t poke out of trash bags and rip them. I’ve seen thousands of these broken tees over the years, but it looks interesting as a still life. Everyone focuses on the beauty of the course, but it’s the little things like these that interest me.

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“He has an aversion to other human beings, so he tends to shoot from off the beaten path. That creates angles and visions that are at odds with the norm. His stuff is different and unusual…as is the man himself.”

Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

Inversion Layer

This was at Sweetens Cove. The night before the shoot, I had a memorable cup of microwave rigatoni and Cup Noodles where I used two ball point pens upside down as chopsticks at the motel. Not everything has to be what it is. This is obviously photographed in a traditional angle, but I liked the subtle colors reflecting in the water and flipping it upside down better reflected what I saw.

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olympic club

Light Touch

I was shooting course scenics at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on a cloudy, foggy, overcast morning. It wasn’t going well. Then, all of a sudden, it started to clear and a bit of light came through the trees. Things like that happen and you just have to be ready and keep looking even when things aren’t going your way.

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This is Nidom Classic Course in Hokkaido, Japan. I remember the light was fading and I was about to pack up but the dense forest surrounding this tee box looked interesting. Sometimes you just end on a good one.

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About the Photographer

Hailing from Southern California and with roots in Japan, Kohjiro Kinno has been studying and perfecting his craft for over two decades after falling in love with photography in junior high. His first big golf break came at the 2008 U.S. Open, when his Sports Illustrated editors asked him to shoot the action at Torrey Pines from a blimp above. The results were as stunning as the finish below.

Assignments for S.I. and The Golfer’s Journal have kept him constantly on the move since that gig in 2008. From Tiger’s historic 2019 Masters victory to multiple Olympics to portrait sessions with Tyson, Bryson, and Odell, Kinno has striven to capture the people and moments we all know with a thoughtfulness and weight few would consider.


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