Meet the Locals: Marc Samuels, New York City

Meet the Locals: Marc Samuels, New York City

“Every place is about relationships,” says Marc Samuels, the owner of PhotoTrek Tours, a company that shows guests New York City through combined private tours and photoshoots. Visitors to New York City can hire a photographer and also book a separate walking tour, but Samuels offers both together. Samuels treats every visitor as an honored guest with individualized and custom experiences, but one tour sticks out. 

A couple booked a tour. Over the course of their visit, the woman mentioned she was living with a serious medical condition. It was her dream to visit New York City. Ending the tour at Brooklyn Bridge, the woman cried tears of joy. “When saying goodbye she gave me the tightest hug and was so grateful to me for taking them around and capturing these memories for her,” recalls Samuels. 

A native New Yorker, Samuels grew up with relationships at the center of his life. Living in every borough except for Queens and Staten Island, his parents moved to Co-Op City, the world’s largest co-op, in the Bronx when he was little. “Although growing up in the Bronx may have been perceived to be dangerous, I have nothing but fond memories of my childhood, [and being] outside all day playing with friends, many of whom I am still close with to this day,” says Samuels. 

His parents encouraged Samuels and his three siblings to take advantage of New York City. Growing up outside of Manhattan, frequent trips to “the City” were part of the family tradition. Often, top tourist destinations like Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art were Samuels’ playground. “There’s never a dull moment in New York City,” reflects Samuels. His family took full advantage.  

A Passion for Photography Emerges

With his heart in the Bronx, Samuels left New York for Washington, D.C. in a Ford Galaxie 500, which his friends nicknamed the “Bronx Bomber.” It was at American University majoring in Communications where Samuels’ passion for photography and visual arts was solidified. After a brief stint working as a production assistant on a feature film, Samuels landed in the import and export industry. 

On several occasions, Samuels’ boss asked him to show foreign clients New York City. Taking the assignment seriously, he customized every tour, snapping photos along the way using a Minolta X-700 film camera. Before the clients flew home, Samuels presented them with the developed photographs as souvenirs. Fast forward many years, he started PhotoTrek Tours to offer the same experience to others from around the world. 

Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and Germany are just a few of the locations guests have traveled from to book one of Samuels’ tours while on vacation in New York City. “I really want to make it special for them,” says Samuels. Days before each tour, he emails the guests to get information from them to help customize a tour that fits their needs and wants. “No tour is the same,” he says. 

As Samuels points out New York City’s landmarks and lesser-known spots, he snaps photos of the guests. Within 48 hours, the guests receive an email from Samuels with a zip file of all the photos. “I don’t hold back on the photos,” he says. His photos end up as cherished mementos for many of his guests. 

Being a native New Yorker, Samuels shows them a more unique side of New York City. For example, when in Little Italy, Samuels shows his guests an easy-to-miss shoe store, the former site of the Ravenite Social Club where John Gotti and his former Gambino mobsters once congregated. And in Central Park, Samuels calls out the park as the site of his very first concert in 1981—Simon and Garfunkel. (Samuels’ parents encouraged him to take advantage of every cultural opportunity in New York City.) 

A City Close to His Heart

As a native New Yorker, he’s proud of his city. He says, “I am a native of New York City so I never really wanted to live anywhere else. I have been fortunate, traveling quite a bit internationally and always felt, although many cities have their own unique culture and vibe, in my view, no place can match what New York City has to offer.” During college, he studied in Copenhagen, Denmark. Although it was a cherished time in a beautiful city for Samuels, New York City had his heart. 

“I hope my passion for NYC shines through on my tours,” Samuels says. With repeat customers, referrals, and positive online reviews, his passion for New York City is contagious. With every tour, Samuels hopes to change the perception that New Yorkers are rude. “If you fall, eight New Yorkers will help you up,” he notes. 

After visiting other major cities, Samuels always comes back to New York City. His two favorite neighborhoods are the West Village and Brooklyn Heights. He says, “With the Village, you have the best of many worlds.  You can walk down a quiet, tree-lined street with brownstones and townhouses, and then turn the corner, and you have world class restaurants, live music, and comedy clubs.” It’s similar in Brooklyn Heights—but with a view of the New York City skyline. 

Twenty Years of Tours and Counting

Referrals from happy customers is how Samuels built his 20-year-old business. “Word-of-mouth is very powerful. You always have to bring your A game. You should always want to bring your A game. People talk. Referrals and great reviews are how I receive a good amount of my tours,” Samuels says. Always giving guests New York City tips, like how to navigate the subway, is another perk of his tours that often leads to recommendations. 

“Embrace New York City! Don’t be scared to get around. Put yourself out there and visit the off-the-beaten-path areas,” Samuels says as advice for all who visit New York City. Exploring may lead you to meet new people. After all, every place is about relationships.

Be on the lookout for Dreams Abroad’s ongoing Meet the Locals series. Follow our series to meet other global professionals sharing their stories from around the world.

16 thoughts on “Meet the Locals: Marc Samuels, New York City

  1. Having only visited New York City once on a very tight schedule, I would definitely book a photo tour on my next visit! It seems like a great way to not only capture your tip, but see popular sites too.

  2. Sounds like there was lots of fun, chatting and history in post. It always a great time finding out the past and who your neighbors are

  3. I love meeting the locals when I visit somewhere. Anyone can visit the tourist traps, I prefer going into the more “normal” placeas.

  4. Marc’s excitement about NYC is contagious! Joining his photo tour offers a fantastic chance to discover the city’s culture and history in a fun way 🙂

  5. Beautiful photos! I’m actually in NYC right now when I found your article. There’s something about New York that has an energy like no other. Especially Brooklyn. I love it in New York, the Heights is such a beautiful neighborhood.

  6. I love the combination of a tour with photography. Sometimes it can be so tough going away as someone has to take the photo so you end up having to ask strangers or risk someone not being in the photo. Such a lovely idea x

  7. I love this tour. I am planning to visit in November. I am hoping I will have a good time. Thanks for sharing.

  8. It is always nice learning about new areas from the locals who live there! Great post, I enjoy seeing these and reading them. I look forward to reading more.

  9. What a neat idea to capture photos while traveling in NY. Such an interesting interview, and it is fun to learn about what people do for a living, especially something as unique as this.

  10. I love that he’s proud of where he’s from! I have been to New York a few times. New York City, Long Island and Ithaca. I liked them all.

  11. Nice to meet you, Marc, it’s an awesome company you have, and good to learn about you. I think I’ve heard of the company name but not entirely sure where or when.

  12. Aww, that’s a wonderful way to give back to the community. We all need to remember to smile these days.

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