Photographer Dan Root brings Manhattan bars to life in new book ‘New York Bars At Dawn’

Photographer Dan Root inside Julius' bar, one of the many subjects of his book "New York Bars At Dawn"
Photographer Dan Root inside Julius’ bar, one of the many subjects of his book “New York Bars At Dawn”
Photo by Bob Krasner

It’s not easy getting a book published, but it may be even harder to promote it.  This is something that photographer Dan Root knows well by now, and he’s just getting started. His “New York Bars At Dawn” is a hardcover collection of 200 splendid images of downtown watering holes taken in the limbo hours between closing time and sunrise. 

He started the project with a photo of the 7B Horseshoe Bar (aka Vazac’s) in 2017. Bars are not the only subjects that he finds interesting – his daily Instagram posts (eight years worth to date) from his pre-dawn walks are evidence of that – but he’s documented around 1400  of the joints and it made good sense to compile the best ones in a book.  

Luckily Abbeville Press agreed and the result is in a variety of stores and, of course, on Amazon. Once the book was out, Root had to push aside the creative side of his brain and become a salesman. So far he’s presided over nine book launch events in a variety of venues, some set up by the publisher and some arranged by Root. It made sense to hold some of them in the actual locations that are featured in the book, such as Julius’ in the West Village and 7B, which graces the cover. 

Dan Root at one of the many book launch events, at the Village Works bookshop
Dan Root at one of the many book launch events, at the Village Works bookshopPhoto by Bob Krasner

Nicole Hudson, 7B’s owner, was “ super excited to find out that we were going to be on the cover of Daniel’s book. We are also very grateful to have been the bar that inspired him to do this project !” she said, adding that, “if people  purchased it off the shelf and those people judged the book by its cover, that makes us happy too!”

Other events took place at the NYC Culture Club, Untapped New York, Village Works Bookshop and McNally Jackson at the Seaport.

Root approaches each promo evening with a fairly reasonable attitude. “ Of course, I want a high turnout,” he admits. “I like to have my ego stroked – but I’m prepared if it’s low. You just have to do your best – you can’t let the size of the crowd dictate your energy level.” 

Dan Root with guitarist/producer Eric Ambel, who formerly owned the Lakeside Lounge in the East Village
Dan Root with guitarist/producer Eric Ambel, who formerly owned the Lakeside Lounge in the East VillagePhoto by Bob Krasner

In between personal appearances, he’s done some interviews and found at least one novel way to promote the book. A few afternoons were spent attaching framed prints of the bars to poles in front of the locations. Around 50 or so people now own an original Root print, as just about all of them have disappeared. “I knew they wouldn’t be there for long, “ Root admits, “but it was my favorite part of the promotional process.”

Every once in a while an unexpected offer comes in, like the upcoming chance to be the prize at Drag Bingo ( Accidental Bar, 12/13) or the request from Gary Guarinello, owner of Catalyst Records in the Essex Market, who had been following Root on Instagram.

“When I saw that Daniel was releasing a new photo book about New York City bars, I reached out to see if we could partner on an event at Catalyst,” he relates.  “Music and the arts is so closely related to food and beverage. A lot of these bars are the unofficial headquarters of New York artists and it just seemed natural to host the book launch at the record store.”

Root signing books at Catalyst Records
Root signing books at Catalyst RecordsPhoto by Bob Krasner

Unexpected praise comes in as well, such as the email that showed up from Phil Block, the Deputy Director at ICP. “Just a short note to say how much I enjoyed reading your new book,” he wrote”  It is great –  so much so that I took a second tour of it the other morning. To see things anew, in such an evocative manner was what drew me in and what was so compelling.  Forty years in NYC, in those very neighborhoods, having seen countless NYC pictures and yet here was something remarkably original – all from a simple idea, so smartly executed. Thanks for seeing what many of us didn’t”.

While kudos for the book pile up Root forges ahead, looking for new avenues for promotion ( while wondering why The Strand hasn’t ordered it for their New York section).  And what knowledge has he gained from the whole experience thus far? “I’ve learned how to get through a book signing”, he says, smiling.

Dan Root is on Instagram at @danielrootphotography and on the web at rootrootroot.com

Root left framed photos of many of the bars in the book in front of the them……they didn’t last longPhoto by Bob Krasner
Dan Root signing copies of his book at RizzoliPhoto by Bob Krasner
When the family shows up….Rina and Hannah with Dan at Julius’Photo by Bob Krasner