Director of Sales & Marketing at The Bowery Hotel, Leo Jacob pays homage to those who have illuminated New York with their passion by sharing the stories of business owners and what the city means to them. Captured with his Leica SL2 and Leica Q2, Leo engages with the restaurants, storefronts, and those working through the trying times of the pandemic.

Mario Carbone, Chef and Managing Partner of Major Food Group

1. What is NYC?
“The single greatest social experiment in the history of the world.”

2. What do you say to those that say “NYC is dead”?
“We didn’t want you anyway!”

3. What about your experience in NYC has changed your life?
“NY is my home and birthplace so it’s been with me throughout my life. It’s my greatest inspiration my formal education and my first love. It is me.”

Karim Raoul, Manager of Raoul’s Bistro

1. What is NYC?

2. What do you say to those who say NYC is dead?
“Come by for dinner one night and you’ll see its very much alive.”

3. What about your experience in NY has changed your life?
“I’ve never known life without the city so it’s hard to say how it has affected me because it’s so much of who I am. When I travel I notice the city’s effects on my personality more and I think it translates into openness. Not only a willingness but an enthusiasm to accept people and cultures that are completely different than mine. The restaurant and NYC have always been a microcosm of the world and that’s what creates the energy, all the different energies mingling into one.”

Greg Hunt, Owner of Amsterdam Billiards (Currently Closed)

1. What is NYC?
“Let me sum it up like this: either you live in NYC, or you’re just kidding yourself.”

2. What do you say to those that say “NYC is dead”?
“Every generation something happens and everyone says NYC is dead. The 70’s fiscal crisis, the 1987 financial meltdown, 9/11, and now Covid. NYC always comes back. If NYC were a stock, I would never short it.”

3. What about your experience in NYC has changed your life?
“I was born and raised in NYC so it’s all I know. The only thing I’ve heard about living somewhere else is “There’s no ‘there’ there.”

Henry-Alex Rubin, Academy Award Nominated and Emmy Award-Winning, Film & Commercial Director with Smuggler

1. What is NYC?
“New York is like a gorgon. If you cut one head off, two will grow back in its place.”

2. What do you say to those that say “NYC is dead”?
“To people who say it’s dead, I guess I’d obnoxiously quote Updike who said “anyone living anywhere else has to be, in some sense, kidding.”

3. What about your experience in NYC has changed your life?
“Since I was a kid I was mesmerized by NY movies like Husbands, Pope of Greenwich Village, Mean Streets, French Connection. I knew I wanted to live here no matter what it was I ended up doing.

I love the Bowery and moving into my crumbling loft here years ago was the best thing I ever did. I couldn’t believe I was living in the same building where Nan Goldin took pictures, where Kostabi painted. One door away from where Charles Mingus played bass, across the street from where the Ramones played their first gig, kitty corner to where Basquiat painted. My head has exploded countless times casually walking by my heroes on my very own block — from Jarmusch to Lou Reed, to Patti Smith and Phillip Glass. To me, it’s the greatest neighborhood in all of New York.”

Arthur Abrams, Owner of Manhattan Buyers

1. What is NYC?

2. What do you say to those that say “NYC is dead”?
“It’s far from dead, but it’s lost some luster. It’ll bounce back I’m sure, but it’ll take some time.”

3. What about your experience in NYC has changed your life?
“Growing up here you run into every culture imaginable, eat every type of food imaginable. It’s the cultural center of the world. Daily life isn’t mundane and slow, it’s fast and tumultuous. It makes you faster, sharper, better more goal-oriented. I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. New York City and I go hand in hand. I’m a proud New Yorker. We reopened after the mandatory lockdown. We have a loyal customer base that relies on having the ability to sell hi-valued items quickly and easily.”

Nur Khan, Partner at Butterfly SOHO

1. What is NYC?
“Home sweet home. A breeding ground for creativity.”

2. What do you say to those that say “NYC is dead”?
“NYC will never die. There’s nowhere in the world more resilient than NYC.”

3. What about your experience in NYC has changed your life?
“In NYC you are able to thrive in an environment you choose to create. That’s why we all moved here. I love NYC…All the inspiring people you meet, get to work with…play with… Nowhere in the world comes close.”

Anthony Malone, Owner of Swift Hibernian Lounge

1. What is NYC?
“Simply speaking, it’s the greatest city in the world. It has everything. Energy, atmosphere, creativity, diversity, yet it still has a close-knit community feeling.”

2. What do you say to those that say “NYC is Dead”?
“NYC is not simply a place, nor can it die. This city has grown and thrived due to the collective energy and intention of all the people that live here and contribute to it. As long as New Yorkers keep showing up and fighting for their place here, then the city will never die. I am grateful to be one of them.”

3. What about your experience in NYC has changed your life?
“They say you have to leave your home to find out who you really are. This was true for me. Living in NYC has not only molded who I am as a person but has also helped me better understand the place and the people that I came from.”

Chef Roger Martinez, Il Buco

1. What is NYC?
“NYC is where everything is possible”

2. What do you say to those that say “NYC is dead”?
“I tell them that NYC is not dead it is sleeping and NYC will never die because time after time It has bounced back better than ever.”

3. What about your experience in NYC has changed your life?
“My experience in NYC has changed my life in many ways, it has changed my life professionally, it provided a lot of amazing opportunities for my family and it has allowed me to meet a lot of generous and amazing people that have helped me along the way. “

“Spiky” Phil Meynell, Co-Owner & Chief Creative Officer of Paint It Black

1. What is NYC?
“NYC is a constant whirlwind of change and opportunity.”

2. What do you say to those that say NYC is dead?
“Probably haven’t been here long enough. Dead? Compared to what?”

3. Whats about your experience in NYC has changed your life?
“Your life can change from meeting someone in a bar. Whether it be your career or relationship, that doesn’t happen in any other city. I have been here half my life now, 20 years and I’ve lived several lives in that time, yet it feels like just one long year. We are only getting started.”

Justin Sievers, Managing Partner of Bar Primi

1. What is NYC?
“NYC is a force of nature. A place where anyone can belong.”

2. What do you say to those that say “NYC is dead”?
“You’re wrong. But if you truly believe that then I challenge you to do something about it.”

3. What about your experience in NYC has changed your life?
“Everything. Through exposure to diversity and cultures here, I have come to understand the world with an expanded view. My dream of owning a restaurant in the dining capital of the world, meeting my wonderful wife, and now my dream of making a film (@everforward_nyc) has all come true. The vibrancy of this city has helped push me to accomplish my goals.”

An Interview with Leo Jacob

1. What motivated this project?
“Well, it certainly had a lot to do with that self-published essay “NYC is dead forever. Here’s why”. However, allow me to digress here a bit. Rewinding back to March 18th, we closed The Bowery Hotel in response to Covid-19 restrictions, restaurants halted operations, non-essential business shuttered… I can go on and on here but ultimately that was it; New York City was told to close down. From that moment, New Yorkers, regardless of if they were the employer or the employee felt “it”, something awry had occurred. We were now on the defensive, all trying to cope and prepare for what was looming around the corner. Months later, that nonsense article was republished, and it sparked the debate; is New York City Dead? And of course, it is not. But it’s not just because New York City is a self-perpetuating machine, no, it takes people, it takes businesses and a heck of a lot of sacrifices. In my possession was a Leica Q2 and I thought, my vantage point is aligned with the hospitality industry and if I can shine a light on all of those keeping their restaurants, storefronts, and quite frankly, The City’s heartbeat to continue, I should.”

2. What do you look for in a NYC story?
“Upon its completion, the book will highlight restaurants, storefronts, and industries that are operating through the pandemic. Many of which are doing so with considerable financial burdens. They operate not only to sustain a way of life for themselves and their employees but a way of life for the occupants of New York City. In some cases, I will be featuring establishments like Amsterdam Billiards, that would have possibly reopened if they were permitted to by the city/state.

Ultimately, I look for struggle and a connection; a struggling establishment/industry hoping to connect to its patrons.”

3. Why is it important for you to capture and share these stories?
“As a New Yorker, I can’t help but just think it’s my duty [to share these stories], especially as it ties so much to the industry that has served me so well, both professionally and personally. The amount of relationships that I’ve made within the restaurant and hotel world would not be possible if not for those establishment’s operational ability. We all connect to each other, many times through a place. And now, when many say the city is dead, my response is no, no it is not, and here is… John Smith of XYZ Restaurant, operating through this pandemic, struggling, keeping this city very much alive.”

4. How did the pandemic affect your approach to photography?
“The subject that I’m photographing is typically the business owner or the person that represents the operation so you can imagine how busy they are. I try and shoot quickly, not to Usually I’ll scout the day before or day with a similar weather forecast as the scheduled shoot day. I try and schedule a shoot for approximately 45 minutes until sunset if possible, as I really only use natural light. Only recently have a started using the SF 64 flash unit, as advised by Michael Muller. The additional lighting support is a huge help as is Michael!”

5. What is one piece of advice related to photography that you would like to share with our readers?
“Preparation is paramount. Scouting the area ahead of time, doing some background on your subject if the subject is a person, understand the history of the place is all relative and can really help with client engagement as well as how you frame a subject. After all, we only really have one moment to capture something the right way.”

About Leo Jacob
Leo Jacob is a New York-based photographer and Director of Sales & Marketing for The Bowery Hotel. Currently, his work-in-progress showcases the spirit of his native city’s businesses amidst the economic crisis of a global pandemic. Jacob’s work captures the powerful stories of the people working to keep New York City’s restaurants, storefronts, and entertainment industry alive (and thriving) while operating through the harsh restrictions due to Covid-19, health concerns, and looming financial hardships & constraints.

The project, titled “WORK IN PROGRESS” is supported by Leica Camera and created through the Leica Q2 and Leica SL2 cameras. To learn more about Leo, visit his website, or follow him on Instagram at @popeofthebowery10.