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Citymaker Series: The City Expert

Citymakers is a new This City Life column featuring people who do great things for Vancouver or other cities - whether it is through their love of art, music, photography, public space, nature or any form of creative expression or city issue. They don't get  a lot of recognition for what they do. And, they often do it in their spare time, for free or little money, off the side of their desk, mostly while working full-time, 9-5 jobs. But, that is not an issue to them. They pursue their art or passion because they love and care about what they are doing.


Rommy Ghaly is a Vancouver-based tech worker and photographer. In his free time, he photographs city life and offers funny observations about living in Vancouver. You find his photos in local magazines and at his website Vancouverish. We met through Tumblr.

Who are you?

I was born and raised in New York. After graduating from high school in 1996 (do the math), I never looked back. I've worked in tech (web and games) for most of my career and have been lucky enough to live all over the US, in Europe, and now in Canada. Hobbies include indulging in films at the Cinematheque, seeing friends' bands perform in the Downtown Eastside, and hitting up gallery exhibitions. In other words, hanging out at future condominiums. Outside of that I have a passion for film photography.

What motivates you to get involved in city life?

I've become a self-proclaimed expert at living in cities. I've lived in Stamford (Connecticut), Kansas City (Missouri), San Francisco, Stockholm, Berlin, and now Vancouver. Furthermore, I've finally come to terms with the fact that I'm a city person. I went through my outdoors phase in my 20s, but a couple years in Europe turned me into a city person. I love cities because I believe they represent mankind's highest level of societal evolution. Cities are the prime example of how human beings can take advantage of technological, social, and political systems to live peacefully and sustainably (hopefully), working together to advance the causes of mankind with a lower impact on the global environment.

Why Vancouver?

I didn't know much about Vancouver before I moved here two years ago. I'd heard great things and was offered a job here. Though the first year was an adjustment (reverse culture shock), I've come to love this city. I especially love how self-starting people are. Vancouverites love to look ahead, take pride in great local products and driving locally-based economy, and are a very progressive people.


Vancouver would be better if____(fill in the blanks)

1) Paid as much attention to cultural growth as it did to municipal growth.

2) Made more decisions for the good of the city's future instead of trying to cater to short-sighted NIMBYs.

3) It were more effective in addressing the real issues in the Downtown Eastside vs. throwing money at short-term political solutions.

Favourite public space?

Great question. It's hard to pick just one but I'd have to pick Crab Park. And I would love to see more cultural special events there in the summer (theatre, music, etc.). I'd love to see more outdoors cultural events in general.

Must have Vancouver souvenir?

The American in me needs to get my hands on a red Canada sweatshirt with a big fat maple leaf on it. Vancouver specific? A green man suit.


Favourite local hangout?

Don't make me pick one, Jillian. :) Right now I'm digging Alibi's beer selection, The Cobalt's diverse programming, Wildebeest's menu, and Revolver's coffee.

Local inspiration?

I'm hugely inspired by the East Van grassroots art movement. There are so many phenomenal people creating beautiful things in Vancouver in the face of unbelievable adversity (high cost of living and lack of culture funding and coverage). Those that are sticking around are clearly doing so because they love it. And I love supporting them for doing it.

Worst thing about Vancouver?

Of all the cities I've lived in, Vancouver (both municipally and publicly) has shown least support or demand for arts and culture. In Vancouver, physical and outdoor needs are met but not those of intellectual and artistic stimulation. A character of a city is ultimately a culmination of all these things.


Favourite Vancouver memory?

This past summer the Waldorf hosted a Neil Young tribute night featuring a bunch of local musicians performing Neil Young covers. It's when I really started to appreciate the Waldorf.

Citymakers is a column to profile people who positively contribute to the city (socially, artistically, environmentally, etc.) in their free time. Who else should be profiled here?

Shane Koyczan (poet), Savannah Olsen and Walter Manning (Old Faithful Shop owners), Hannah Epperson (musician - violinist), The Harpoonist and Axe Murderer (blues musicians), Randy Grskovic (artist), the owners of the Dunlevy Snackbar, Andrea Carlson and David Jackman (Harvest Community Market), whoever runs the Vancouver Farmers Markets.