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How to Brand Your Online Portfolio

Since I started working in the digital business, I noticed the importance of a good online portfolio for freelancers and people who mainly find work online. For once, having an online portfolio already puts you ahead most employees and self-employed people- it gives you credibility and a platform for marketing yourself even further.
An online portfolio also allows a freelancer to present a range of skills to potential clients or employers. A good portfolio can make the difference in getting that job.
With so many online portfolios out there, how can you set yourself apart from the others and establish a clear, individual brand? Here are five tips for creating an online portfolio that makes a difference.
Be simple
A potential client or employer must instantly identify one’s related skills when they see a portfolio website. Too many animations, pop ups and banners could prevent them from seeing your main skills or worse, cause them to close your page and never come back. To avoid getting your visitors frustrated with too many distracting pop ups, the goal is to create a simple portfolio website. Navigating through the website must be as simple as ABC.
What needs to be highlighted is your work, not the features of your website. And this work should build confidence in the client or else they won’t contact you.
The important pages that should be included in your website are the the following:

Home
About
Portfolio
Contact page
Services/Products

You should also include your social media handles to communicate trust and for them to know that they are dealing with a real person.
Send a clear message
When creating an online portfolio website, a graphic designer or visual artist for example should keep in mind that his work should be the central message. For example, if you are specialized in the designing of logos, then your portfolio website must present this information clearly.
When choosing the jobs to highlight, quality must take precedence over quantity.
The most accomplished achievements and best designs must be placed at the top of the portfolio. Visitors may not necessarily take the trouble to check your entire work.
Insert a logo and a catch
The logo and tagline adds credibility and professionalism in your online portfolio. When a user first looks at your website, your logo and tagline is what they will most likely remember. The potential customer must identify the key message at a glance. They need to know what you are all about.
It is also essential to add a logo or a brand name at the top of the page with a hyperlink leading to the homepage.
In addition, a succinct ‘About me’ allows inform visitors of who you are; summarizes the identity of the designer, where he or she lives and what he or she does. An example “My name is Craig Adams, I am a Graphic designer in New York and I specialize in designing eye catchy 3D logos”.
If you work in the graphic design industry, your tag line can be: “Graphic Designer | Print Illustrator | Specialises in Portraits”
Add customer testimonials
Presenting recommendations from satisfied clients or from employers can establish you as someone who is an expert in your field. It shows that you have the positive results to back up your credentials and previous works. Beyond giving credibility, it encourages the prospect to contact the designer.
There are two possibilities: add a “Review/Testimonial” section or place the testimonials under the projects concerned. This kind of content is likely to make a difference if a customer is still reluctant to hire you.
After each successful project, you should solicit the client for writing a recommendation.
Create a contact section
Needless to say, the “contact” section is essential. Whether it’s a whole page or a single section, the “Contact Me” should be identifiable quickly, regardless of the medium on which the client is browsing through your website. The phone number and email address should also be present at the top or bottom of the page. Adding a contact form is optional.
In addition, adding Twitter buttons, Facebook and any other relevant social network can increase your online visibility and presence.
SEO optimized portfolio
The most beautiful portfolio in the world would be useless if it is not seen by anyone, or seen by the wrong people.
To be visible on the Internet, your portfolio website must be well referenced in search engines like Google. Being “well referenced” means coming out in search query results that match the audience you want to attract.
Use the keywords that are used by Internet users to search for your type of services . You can put these keywords in the following content of your portfolio:

Title
Meta tags
Text content
Images

This will strengthen your SEO and allow you to be visible on Google and Google Images.
Also share your website on social media like Facebook, twitter, Instagram and post on LinkedIn groups, blogs or forums related to your niche.
Where to create an online portfolio?
Anyone can easily create an online portfolio using various online tools. The most common of this is a website builder. Website builders are easy to use and you are able to create web pages by dragging and dropping pre-built modules.
Aside from website builders, you can also put up your portfolio on social media. Depending on the social media platform used, there can be some limitations. Social media platforms are also free to use.

How to Manage Your Virtual Agency: The Complete Blueprint

A virtual agency can help you create a global business with a remote-only team. Learn how to manage your virtual agency team in this article.
It’s a trend that’s impossible to miss:
Remote work.
What used to be limited to buzzy Silicon Valley startups is now a dominant trend (some would say, a movement) across the world. More and more people are working remotely than ever before, and bigger and better companies are going remote only.
For agencies, remote work opens up a whole new world of opportunities. You’re not limited by your local talent; you can build a virtual agency filled with A-players from around the world. This gives you access to a global market, not just the businesses in your city.
The office rent savings and zero commute time are just added bonus.
But building a virtual agency is easier said than done. From hiring to management and everyday communication, going remote changes everything you know about running a business.
In this guide, I’ll demystify the virtual agency management process. You’ll learn how to build systems to make management easier, and how to develop processes so you can operate with maximum efficiency.
What It Means to Manage a Virtual Agency
The traditional agency model is built largely off presence. You find clients among the businesses in your city. And you hire from your local talent pool.
This is why large agencies make it a point of pride to have offices in many cities.

Havas has offices in virtually every major city across the world, including several offices in New York alone.
While this “on-location” model has its disadvantages, collaboration isn’t one of them. Problems are so much easier to solve when you can get people together in the same room.
This gives traditional agencies significant leeway in terms of processes and systems. You don’t have to invest as heavily in, say, building a knowledge wiki if you can walk down the office and ask the concerned person directly.
If you’re building a virtual team for your agency, your approach will be completely opposite. You’re not limited to local talent; you can hire from across the globe. But you also can’t walk down the hall and hash things out in the conference room.
In other words, while a traditional agency can get away with limited systems, a virtual agency team can’t. You have to obsessively focus on developing processes that help you collaborate and communicate better.
This is the gist of the approach to managing a virtual agency. Your priority should be to:

Develop robust systems and processes that help you communicate and collaborate better
Hire people with the values and skills to follow these systems and processes

In this systems-first approach, you wouldn’t rely on ad-hoc measures and individual initiative. Rather, you would have processes built into your management structure to facilitate collaboration.
For example, in a typical agency, project managers aren’t obligated to share lessons from each project with others. It is largely up to individual initiative.
But in a systems-first agency, you would make debriefing a core part of your project management system. A project wouldn’t be considered complete until the manager completes a post-project analysis.
By focusing on systems and hiring people who can thrive within them, you’ll not only make remote work easier, but also help your agency scale faster.
In the next section, I’ll focus on this aspect of building a virtual agency – setting up management systems.
Managing a Virtual Agency
When you’re building a virtual agency, it can be tempting to just find clients, hire a few people, and figure things out along the way.
This approach is essentially built on poor foundations. You don’t have the underlying systems to help you scale, especially in an online-only context. You might bag a few clients, but once you grow beyond a “2 pizza team”, you’ll struggle to keep track of things.
Which is why I encourage entrepreneurs to think deeply about their processes, systems, and practices before they reach out to a single client or potential hire. Build a strong foundation and you’ll find growing, and managing your growing agency, much easier.
Here are a few of our best tips for managing your virtual agency.
1. Build your agency around collaboration
Far too often, businesses make the mistake of thinking that “collaboration” is all about buying the right tools.
In truth, collaboration can’t be bought with tools or weekend workshops. It’s not something you can tack onto your organization.
Rather, collaboration has to be built into your company’s DNA.
Think of how you communicate between and across teams. If you don’t have a culture that encourages idea sharing and casual “water cooler” conversations, no number of chat tools can help you collaborate well.
Being collaboration-first is particularly important for virtual agencies. After all, you can’t collaborate in-person; you have to do everything in virtual spaces.
Some ways to do this are:

Make goal setting a collaborative exercise. This turns the goal into a sort of “contract” between management and employees.
Involve team members in key decisions so they get a sense of ownership in the project.
Factor in each employee’s wants and career trajectory when setting team roles. Not only will this give them a stronger sense of ownership, but it will also help reduce your attrition rate.

Make communication as seamless as possible. Adopt tools like Workamajig where team members can communicate directly within the project space.
Adopt transparency as a core company value. People are more motivated to work together when they know exactly what they’re working towards and what they, the company, and the clients stand to benefit.
Hire and encourage team players instead of individual star performers.

This covers just the basics, of course.
2. Prioritize communication as a core value
Virtual agencies, more than most businesses, can’t afford to ignore communication. Your entire business depends on your ability to communicate ideas quickly, precisely, and succinctly.
Just like collaboration, you’re not going to get much mileage out of adopting better communication tools. Rather, you have to make it a core company value.
In practice, this can mean letting go of an otherwise good performer if he/she doesn’t communicate well. Or make building communication plans a core part of your project management approach.
Everything you do, from the people you hire to the way you manage projects, has to be seen through the lens of communication.
Some ways to prioritize communication in your virtual agency include:

Make communication skills a key quality when assessing new hires.
Encourage “over-communication” right from the moment you onboard new hires.
Make working “together” a priority. This can be something as simple as turning on the webcam for an hour so everyone can see each other while working. This can mitigate the isolated nature of virtual work.
Bake communication into your project management approach. Along with the risk management and financial plans, make communication plans a key part of your project planning process as well.
Hold daily standups over video. Not only does this make your team more accountable, but it also gives you valuable one-on-one facetime.

And of course, using better communication tools doesn’t hurt. Use Slack, HipChat, Zoom, or whatever else fits your agency’s needs better. If your team is working out of different time zones, tools like Spacetime.am can help as well.
3. Document processes and turn them into templates
Blame it on their creative DNA, but agencies have typically been averse to the idea of “process”. They’d much rather wing it than dumb it down into a proven checklist.
As a virtual agency, you can’t afford to adopt the same approach. “Winging it” can’t really work when you’re working in different cities and even timezones.
Instead, your approach should be to:

Document everything you do, and
Turn anything you do multiple times into a template

For instance, every agency follows the same few steps when creating a project proposal. In a process-oriented approach, you would break down all these steps into a list of to-dos. You’d then create separate templates for all the different types of proposals you need to send.

This approach removes the possibility of human error and also makes your agency easier to scale. When you – and your employees – know exactly what to do and how to do it, you will have an easier time growing.
More importantly, a process-oriented approach removes the “fog of war” that often runs through virtual workspaces. No one worries about what to do when they have checklists and templates to follow.
Do this before you start hiring and you’ll have a much better time running a virtual agency.
4. Automate as much as possible
Automation goes hand-in-hand with the process-oriented approach I outlined above. Once you start breaking down every process into its constituent tasks, you will find that you can automate many of them.
For example, one of your to-dos might be to remind freelancers about an upcoming deadline two days before the delivery date. Instead of doing this manually, you can create an automated reminder that works for every project, not just the current one.
Apart from productivity gains, automation also reduces human error. Your team might forget to send reports and email reminders; an automated reminder won’t.
Go back to the processes you created earlier. Categorize the constituent to-dos in each process as follows:

Recurring and periodic, i.e. the task is repeated on every project and recurs at specific intervals, such as sending weekly reports.
Repeating only, i.e. the task is repeated on every project but happens only once, such as sending a project proposal.
Unique and periodic, i.e the task is unique to a particular project but recurs periodically, such as a special report sent out weekly to specific stakeholders.
Unique, i.e. the task is unique to a particular project and does not repeat.

Any task that falls into Category #1 and #2 is a prime candidate for automation. Use tools like Workamajig which offer built-in automation rules to make the entire process easier.
5. Make project planning a top priority
Construction firms and manufacturing companies focus obsessively on project management and planning. But for many agencies, planning is an afterthought, a way to get things done with some semblance of control.
Little wonder that nearly 51% of project failure can be attributed in part to inadequate project planning.

Virtual agencies, in particular, live and die by their ability to plan and manage their activities. The lack of one-on-one interaction – with clients as well as employees – can impact visibility and leave you wondering “what’s next?”.
The solution is to buffer up your project management capabilities, especially how you go about planning.
Ditch your ad-hoc plans for an integrated project management approach. This involves gradually developing the project’s scope and purpose through a project charter, project scope statement, and project management plan (in that order).

At each step, you would add project details and get feedback from stakeholders to make sure you fully understand the project.
In an integrated approach, you would pay as much attention to change management, project monitoring, and project debriefing (aka post-project analysis) as you do to the actual execution. Some ways to do this are:

Developing a change management plan to accept and monitor change requests. This gives you a formal framework to deal with updates and scope changes, instead of responding to Skype chats and long email threads.
Creating a reporting framework to create all the reports you need to send during the course of a project – status reports, performance reports, etc. This framework should identify the minimum requirements every report should meet, and what’s a must-have, good-to-have, and nice-to-have in your reporting standards.
Monitoring milestones and daily activity to make sure that everything is on track. Something as simple as a Gantt chart can give you a great deal of insight into a project’s progress. Project management software that lets you track your team’s productivity is also a huge bonus.
Developing a knowledge repository to document all the learnings from successful and failed projects. This should be a part of your post-project analysis where you break down the project to see what went right and what didn’t. Anything you learn should be added to a centralized knowledge bank that you can tap into for future projects.

Managing a virtual agency requires a very different set of skills than the traditional model. More than people management, you have to invest in developing processes and best practices. Collaboration and communication, often an afterthought for traditional agencies, has to be at the forefront of your organizational approach.

Why Clients Don’t Trust Your Agency’s Junior Team… And What To Do Next

Inexperienced team? Consider 10 client trust factors.
Seeking to build client trust, an agency leader asked:
“I manage a young but talented team. We’ve struggled to establish authority & credibility in front of clients. I have no doubt that my junior team is capable of doing amazing things and I stand by their advice. What can we do, especially when clients are skeptical about their age?”
If a client doesn’t trust someone on your team, start by looking at why the client doesn’t trust them.
Today, we’ll review my 10 key factors, so you can troubleshoot the issue(s) at your agency. For simplicity, I’ll call your client-facing team member an “Account Manager” (AM).
Why clients don’t trust your junior team
In my experience, clients don’t trust a junior contact due to one (or more) of these 10 factors:
1. Functional expertise. Does the Account Manager (AM) understand the marketing (or design or technology or…) advice they’re delivering? At a minimum, they need to know more than the client does (or technically, more than the client thinks the client knows.)
2. Industry expertise. Does the AM understand the client’s industry? If they’re not an expert, are they committed to constantly improving their expertise.
3. Business expertise. Does the AM understand the basics of how business works? Are they doing their best to learn more?
4. Client dedication. Does the AM seem to have the client’s interests at heart? That doesn’t require responding to client texts at 2am, but it does mean the client should perceive partnership rather than clock-punching.
5. Managerial trust. Does the AM’s boss seem to trust them, or is their boss always jumping in to “save” the AM? Conversely, is the boss QA’ing the work sufficiently, or foolishly letting an inexperienced team member flail?
6. Advice track record. How well has the AM’s advice (to the client) worked previously? Has the AM demonstrated a dedication to continuous improvement?
7. Client service track record. In terms of client experience (CX), how has the AM treated the client previously? This includes a strong client onboarding process, including both pre-kickoff and kickoff. Also, if the AM replaced a previous AM, is the new person up to speed on the account’s history? Is the AM an active listener, or do they talk over the client?
8. Polish. Does the AM come across as a competent businessperson? This includes confidence about what they do know, and alternatives when they don’t know something.
9. Inherent bias. Does the client have an inherent bias against something about the AM? Some clients are just terrible people—stop working with them!
10. Something else. Who knows? People are weird.
In your clients’ defense—they may be entirely merited in not [fully] trusting your team. Just because you believe your team’s capable… doesn’t mean they’re capable in front of clients.
Client Perception = Client Reality
Most of those factors are a mix of perception vs. reality. For instance, if the AM has expertise but the client thinks they don’t, it’s the [mis-]perception that counts.
Some are also beyond your control—for instance, if a client is sexist, racist, or ageist, you likely can’t “fix” that. And beyond that, some clients may never trust your inexperienced team.
When agencies use an hourly pricing model, this is a downside to having variable rates (e.g., they differ by skillset). Why? Because the client knows you’re assigning a less-skilled person. Then again, a single blended rate doesn’t help, either, if you acquiesce to clients’ “only experienced people” staffing demands.
Case Study from My Background
I’ve navigated this very situation myself, as a teenager. After learning HTML at age 15, I started a marketing and technology consulting business in high school.
My consulting clients were typically 20-50 years older than I was… and some were 70 years older. Yet I never experienced a situation where a client questioned my credibility. Why? Because I had specialized expertise—and I was good at delivering that expertise to meet their needs.
Working part-time, I offered web design, computer training, and computer troubleshooting services to businesses and individuals in the D.C. area. Primarily via word of mouth, I ultimately grew to ~20 clients.
Over the years, I successfully raised my freelance rates from $12/hour to $75/hour. (After inflation, that’s ~$105/hour in 2019!) I closed the company at age 22, when I took a full-time job in New York after college.
Why didn’t I run into age-gap problems? Because I avoided—or outperformed—on most of the 10 factors above.

First, I knew my stuff… and knew how to find answers if I wasn’t sure. (And I think clients also assumed that being young meant I was inherently tech-savvy.)
Second, my client service skills were outstanding—I was courteous, reliable, and discreet. And my track record was strong; I worked with many clients for years.
Third, I showed my clients that I had their best interests at heart—whether it was recommending a “downsell” or (one time) removing a live mouse from a freaked-out client’s living room.

How to Build Trust at Your Agency
Once you isolate the client trust factor(s) at play in your specific situation, what’s next?
Consider my core solution: Borrowing authority. It’s where you tell the client: “I trust so-and-so; I think you should trust them, too.” (It can be scary to make this promise… which is why you want to be careful about the people you hire.)
Indeed, if you’re going to hire junior employees, you need to invest in providing training and managerial oversight. Employees are rarely magically great.
Beyond the general, your specific solutions will depend on the clients’ specific concerns. Two books can help on both theory and mechanics: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, and The Art of Client Service by Robert Solomon.
Question: How have you built client trust at your agency?

The Theatrical Art of Designing Space

Most of us never think about how space is designed in buildings, but a theatrical set design is, by its very nature, there for its audience to mull over.
For each play produced, a designer creates an environment—fantastic, realistic, metaphoric, or stylized—that allows the audience to be transported into the world of the play.
Of course, each play presents a unique challenge for the designer. The designer’s first concern is that whatever actions the actor needs to perform are doable. If an actor needs to open a window, the set must have a working window. But just as important are aspects that award-winning set designers demonstrate.
Establishes Time and Place
Whether a play is depicting a fantasy or a historically accurate event, the audience should be able to tell whether the action takes place in a kitchen, a restaurant, a palace, under the sea, or on a cloud. And there should be details that suggest whether we are in the 1650s or in 1935. At the same time, the set tells us about the characters that inhabit the world we are visiting. Are they rich, happy, lazy, or bored?
Christopher Oram’s Set for ‘Hughie’
Written in 1942, Eugene O’Neill’s two-character play “Hughie,” set in 1928 in the lobby of a third-rate hotel in New York, is essentially a long monologue. Erie Smith, a two-bit grafter, laments that his good luck has turned bad since the death of Hughie, the establishment’s former hotel clerk, who always lent Erie a willing ear. The play reveals the human desire for others to see us as more important than we actually are.
Christopher Oram’s set for “Hughie” reveals a once-elegant but now run-down lobby with faded carpets on a dusty floor and a tall window to show how we can aspire but fall short. (Marc Brenner)
British theater set and costume designer Christopher Oram said of designing the set: “Since my first visit [to New York], I’ve become aware that so much of this muscular yet delicately detailed classic architecture is being swept aside in favor of bland steel and glass corporate monoliths, and so when I had the opportunity to explore the style in the design for ‘Hughie,’ I leapt at the chance.
“The set itself, Hughie’s world, is the foyer of a fleabag hotel just off Broadway; it is a transitionary space, neither entirely public, but certainly not private. It represents his state of mind, and the choice he must make. The world outside the lobby has very much turned its back on him, but the stairs that lead to his room lead also to certain death. His character, like, ironically, the architecture itself, is at a crossroads. Though O’Neill gives Hughie a glimmer of hope by the conclusion of the play, I fear the beautiful architecture of New York might not be so lucky.”
Fits the Theater
Just as each play presents a challenge for the designer, so does each theater building, with its unique dimensions. For plays that have a lot of set changes, the problem is multiplied. Where can the designer store all of the items until needed? How can scenery be moved quickly so that the lag time during scene transitions is kept to a minimum?
Scott Pask’s Set for ‘Something Rotten!’
The very funny musical comedy “Something Rotten!” takes an ironic look at the larger-than-life world of theater. Set in South London in 1595, brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, struggling playwrights both, concoct a plan to outdo the most famous playwright of their time and ours, Shakespeare. They create a new kind of theater—the musical.
Scott Pask’s set for “Something Rotten!” required both outdoor and interior scenes of the house of the playwright Bottom brothers, a platform for the big number for Shakespeare’s character Bard (pictured here), and room for the Bottom’s theater company, to name just a few of the set changes. As with the trees in the background, Pask used old-fashioned, large cloth backdrops that can be quickly raised or lowered from above to accommodate transitions between scenes. This method not only fits a play set in Shakespeare’s era, but also better accommodates Broadway’s St. James Theatre, which lacks stage depth. (Joan Marcus)
“[The design] implements an economy of means. Internal scenes take place within the overall world of the play, which I call ‘Tudor ghetto’—this downtrodden collage of Tudor buildings and a theater at the center of it. … But then the shifts that go to more specific location to location are more fully realized. It’s done in a way that the St. James [Theatre, in New York] was set up for, a more vaudevillian manner in which things are flattened and the perspective and the desired depth of space is created with false perspective and through the artistry of scenic painting and sculpting. These elements are used to create great dimension in a very shallow theater,” Tony Award-winning set designer Scott Pask told industry magazine Projection, Lights and Staging News.

Creates a World
Each stage design has its own integrity in the sense that it is internally consistent and presents a complete visual world, which, of course, somehow illuminates the play.
Walt Spangler’s Set for ‘Desire Under the Elms’
Adapting a Greek tragedy to more modern times, Eugene O’Neill set his 1924 drama “Desire Under the Elms” on a New England farm. In the harsh landscape where the soil yields more rocks than bounty, a son grows up believing his father worked his mother to death. When the father remarries, and the stepmother’s misguided lust centers on the son, sin begets sin and tragedy results.
Using the startling imagery of large boulders and a whole house hoisted above the characters, Walt Spangler’s set for “Desire Under the Elms” portends the doom resulting from heavy sins. (Courtesy of Walt Spangler)
“For ‘Desire Under the Elms,’ we wanted the design to evoke the visceral oppression and toil of O’Neill’s New England landscape. While we did not want to literally illustrate the trees of the play’s title, we did want to capture a sort of menacing, hovering feel in the space by hoisting the rocks, and even the house itself, up into the air on giant hemp lines normally used for barges,” said Walt Spangler, one of Broadway’s and regional theaters’ most sought-after scenic designers.
Sets the Mood
The stage design helps set the tone or style of the play, as well as the meaning. Whereas realistic designs keep objects within a moderate color scheme and in proportion to what we see around us, tragedies might call for a formal or lofty tone, and slapstick farce a tone that is exaggerated or cartoonish.
David Rockwell’s Set for ‘She Loves Me’
Probably most familiar as its 1998 film incarnation “You’ve Got Mail,” the musical “She Loves Me” is set in 1930s Budapest, Hungary, and follows bickering co-workers Georg and Amalia, who discover that their romantic pen pals are, in fact, each other. Finding love in unexpected places adds to the charm of this old-fashioned romantic musical.
Borrowing from the art nouveau style that influenced Budapest, Hungary, at the time, David Rockwell designed the set for “She Loves Me” with saturated pastels and intricate details, creating a lavish but undeniably cheerful effect appropriate for a romantic comedy and musical. (Joan Marcus)
“[The art nouveau period] is just a magical time to anchor the show in. … In some ways, art nouveau is the architectural equivalent to music. It has a lyrical quality, and so much of the music has the beautiful kind of waltz, lyrical quality,” said David Rockwell in an interview with The Broadway Channel. The American architect and designer is the founder of the Rockwell Group, a cross-disciplinary architecture and design company.

Allows Us to See in a New Way
A visual metaphor, a central image, or a fixed feature on stage can inform an audience and resonate with various meanings throughout a play.
Tim Hatley’s Set for ‘Ghosts’
One of the first plays to document societal ills, Henrik Ibsen’s 1881 play “Ghosts” exposes the hypocrisy of 19th-century morality. Throughout her life, Mrs. Alving has portrayed her long-dead husband as a decent and loving man. This facade ultimately hurts the person she loves most, her son, Oswald, who now suffers from his father’s indecencies.
Tim Hatley’s masterful set for “Ghosts” has transparent walls that let the audience see the actions of the past, such as Oswald accosting the maid in the same way his father accosted the prior maid. These ghosts of the past haunt the present in a tangible way. (Stephanie Berger)
“I was intrigued by the layers and the unraveling of the web of what was going on with the characters,” said Tim Hatley, a Tony Award-winning designer, in an interview with Almeida Theatre.
“I immediately imagined a dark house, closed off from the world, whose walls knew the truth behind them. I became interested in the way we could see into the house. The walls in our set are both transparent and reflective.”

‘The Art of Movement’ Celebrates Timeless Beauty Through Creative Collaboration

NEW YORK—What does it take to capture the split-second moment in a dancer’s performance that sums up the beauty of the dance and allows the dancer’s personality to shine through?
Four to five hours of photography, a lifetime of passion for dance, and two skilled and supportive photographers who want to show only the very best.
“The Art of Movement,” by Ken Browar and Deborah Ory, is an art book that pays tribute to a lifetime of passion. Over 70 world-class dancers are captured—whether in midair, taking a breath, or holding a simple pose—in beautiful, frozen moments that exude life and personality. Between the stunning images, we get glimpses into these dancers’ lives: quotes about how they started dancing, their challenges and successes, surprising moments in their careers, and what dance means to them.
What started as a decorating project turned into an incredible documentation of some of the best dancers of our time. The book that resulted showcases not only the expressive power of these dancers but also the creative collaboration that went into capturing it.
“There’s not a lot of money in dance, and people really are doing it because they love it. No one becomes a professional dancer for anything but passion,” said Deborah Ory, who has long had a passion for dance.
Ory studied ballet until her teens and later the Martha Graham technique, before turning to photography in order to stay connected to dance after an injury prevented her from dancing.
Both of her daughters dance as well. About three years ago, Sarah, Ory’s older daughter, wanted images of ballet dancers to decorate the walls of her room. As Ory and her husband, Ken Browar, started searching for images, they soon realized that the great dancers of today have rarely been photographed. All the images they found were of the previous generation.
Zachary Catazaro for NYC Dance Project. (Ken Browar & Deborah Ory)
They know how to perform, they’re not afraid to give you something.— Ken Browar, photographer

So the couple decided they would take on this project themselves, and reached out via Facebook to a dancer they’d long been fans of—American Ballet Theatre dancer Daniil Simkin. He responded that he’d love to do a shoot with Browar and Ory.
One photoshoot turned into dozens, and the passion project—NYC Dance Project—became an ongoing endeavor to showcase the dancers of our time. The couple branched out to multiple companies and dance styles, with no specific intention aside from wanting to work with the very best.
In the foreword of the book, Simkin wrote that “dance as an art form is bittersweet.” It lives for an instant on stage and then it is gone. That every show is unique is both a feature of its beauty and a loss. This book, he wrote, enables us “to remember these fleeting moments.”

Visual Collaboration
Browar, a renowned fashion and beauty photographer whose work has appeared in Vogue, Elle, and many European fashion magazines, has always been a visual person. His Greenpoint loft—where the living room doubles as a studio—is filled with art. He started collecting paintings early on, he said, but found that photographs spoke to him more. A single image can tell a story or convey an emotion, a point of view that speaks to you—that stuck with him.
“Art needs to move you,” he said.
Photographer Ken Browar, co-creator of the NYC Dance Project, at his home in Brooklyn, New York, on Nov. 15, 2016. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Browar said he’d been handed a camera early in life and took to it immediately. Capturing images was a language that complemented him. At 19, he left for Paris. Before returning to the States, he was photographing glossy spreads with A-list celebrities and models for luxury brands.
Photographing a dancer is totally different, he said. You are working with someone who is an artist and a performer; dancers are completely committed to demonstrating their craft to the best of their abilities. It becomes a complete collaboration between artist and artist.
“They know how to perform, they’re not afraid to give you something,” Browar said. He begins by observing the dancers—how they hold themselves, how they move, how they’re dressed—gleaning information about their personalities before they step onto the set. The dancer warms up, and then starts by improvising a bit.
Ory says she and Browar bring a couple of ideas and the dancer brings a few ideas as well, but they don’t go in with anything too preconceived. “The magic happens on set,” she said.
Photographer Deborah Ory, cocreator of the NYC Dance Project at her home in Brooklyn, New York, on Nov. 15, 2016. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
“Every image is a little different,” Ory said. “I don’t think we know when we’re getting into it what we want to capture, but we know when we capture it. Sometimes it’s something that surprises us.”
Browar has a lot he tries to do with the pictures. He tries to capture the artists and show them as celebrities. Sometimes the image tells a story, but that isn’t necessarily the idea behind it. “It’s not just the movement, but I want you to understand a little bit of the weaknesses and strengths within the subject we’re looking at,” Browar said.
The dancer will try a couple of things, the photographers will make some suggestions, and together the artists are fine-tuning the performance until they get three or four shots that everyone is happy with.
“They are as tough as we are on precision of what they want,” Browar said. “You are shooting lines, and in dance, it’s very precise. They’re very conscious of where the hand is, where the foot is. … It can be quite intense with dancers, in a good way.”
It was also a process of learning to work together for Browar and Ory.
“I didn’t understand that collaboration between certain photographers, when you see two names on a photo,” Browar said.
“Being a photographer, you’re really by yourself,” he said. There may be assistants and others on set, but the work is usually really done by just one person. So they started out with two cameras, and eventually moved to just one camera, getting past working around each other to using each other’s strengths to their advantage and supporting each other. It became a pleasurable and special process, Browar said.
Building Relationships
Photographers Ken Browar and Deborah Ory, creators of the NYC Dance Project, at their home in Brooklyn, New York, on Nov. 15, 2016. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
On set, it was often just Ory, Browar, the dancer, and maybe a hair and makeup artist.
The duo started out with a costume stylist as well, but they quickly realized that trying on multiple outfits, some suited for dance and others not at all, was not what they wanted for the process. Ory soon took over all the costuming.
Ory had previously worked in commercial photography, including portraits, lifestyle, and food, plus she worked as a photo editor for magazines like House & Garden and Mirabella. She had done everything from hiring photographers to producing shoots, from communications to budgeting, and that became useful knowledge for this project.
She would call up designers and ask to borrow clothing; dancewear companies sent pieces, and sometimes the dance companies could lend their costumes for the shoots as well.
One time, they received a couture swan-inspired gown worth thousands of dollars from Denmark, stuffed in a FedEx box. It was for a shoot with ballerina Misty Copeland, incidentally capturing the historic event of when Copeland became the first African-American dancer promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre and cast in the leading role for “Swan Lake.”
They were not able to borrow the costume, so Ory did some research and found a woman in Denmark who made incredible feathered dresses. She sent her a message on Facebook, and the designer wrote back asking for her address.
“She’s an amazing designer, and to this day, she’s still posting pictures of our book and our images, saying how much she admires our work, and it’s been this mutual admiration,” Ory said. “When we got married, she made my wedding dress, from a distance.” They eventually met in New York. Many relationships have been like this, Ory added.
The dancers and their communities have been incredibly supportive as well.

The most important part of the shoot is to capture the images that everyone is happy with. It is a labor of love for all of the artists involved, and the photographers want the dancers to be able to use these images for self-promotion as well. After the photo sessions, the photographers do a question-and-answer session with the dancers to capture their stories and background. Through the project, they become friends and supporters of each other’s work.
From the beginning, social media has been an important part of Ory and Browar’s project.
When the project first began, Simkin posted the images on his social media accounts to the delight of his tens of thousands of followers. There was not much out there quite like Browar and Ory’s photographs, and almost immediately people were reaching out to the couple from around the globe, curious and full of questions.
Throughout the project, they have continued to post images on social media and have gained many supporters and fans. Even after getting a book deal, they fought to be able to continue to share the images online (which are cropped differently from the images in the book).
After this year’s jarring election week, when many were feeling the backlash from the incredibly polarized atmosphere, people were reaching out and thanking them and asking them to keep posting their images “because we need a lot more beauty in this world,” Ory said.
“Everyone will take something different from it,” Ory said. “Some people are just going to like the beautiful bodies, and some people are going to love the beautiful dresses, and some people are going to respond emotionally.”
“And some people who are not interested in dance all of a sudden discover it,” Browar added.
“The Art of Movement” by photographers Ken Browar and Deborah Ory, creators of the NYC Dance Project. The book features over 70 dancers from American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Alvin Ailey, Royal Danish Ballet, the Royal Ballet. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Becoming a Book
The idea of creating a book had always been there, but it was also sort of a dream.
For so long, the project was purely digital, Ory said, so it was an exciting moment when she finally had the book in her hands.
“It was like, this is the real deal,” she said. It also wasn’t easy getting the book deal; publisher after publisher told them dance books just don’t sell well.
Browar said they realized afterward that for dancers, it is all about the performance, all their hard work culminating in the moment on stage. And for photographers, that ultimate experience is creating a book.
They’ve progressed to creating short videos as well, which follows a different creative process and form but is just as fulfilling, and they have plans to move out of the studio and perhaps photograph more dancers on location.
It’s beautiful that you can have a language that is completely through movement [and] that is so universal to everyone.— Deborah Ory, photographer

Through the project, Browar says he learned about dance, and Ory was able to once again connect with the art form she feels so passionate about.
Dance and photography both feel universal and timeless to Ory. A photo is a moment frozen in time, but people can still relate to the image and moment years later. She remembers photographing her daughters at dance class, listening to the same music she heard in classes and performing the same movements she had learned. These are music and steps that have been performed by people for years and years, and that will continue to be heard and performed for years and years to come.
“It’s beautiful that you can have a language that is completely through movement that is so universal to everyone,” Ory said. “Pretty much every culture worldwide has some form of dance and some form of communication through movement.”
Three years later, the photographers say they’ve only just cracked the surface of capturing what the dance world has to offer.
Photographers Ken Browar and Deborah Ory, creators of the NYC Dance Project, at their home in Brooklyn, New York, on Nov. 15, 2016. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Classical Music Producer Leonid Fleishaker: The Classics Lead Us to See the Colors of Life

Accompanied by a pianist, 11 violinists in formal evening attire (only two of them men) stood across the stage and bodily engaged with the music as they played. The concert on Oct. 23 at Brooklyn’s Kingsborough Community College by the ensemble Siberian Virtuosi included repertoire from Johann Sebastian Bach to Astor Piazzolla, and so precise was the playing, it sounded at times like one stringed instrument.
According to Leonid Fleishaker, who as president of World Touring LLC manages the group, the ensemble’s performance nearly always brings the audience to its feet at concert’s end and then the musicians accommodate the enthusiastic response with an encore.
Fleishaker notes that the wide range of classical music is just one of the attributes that makes the ensemble from the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) unique. It’s not a chamber orchestra, which is typically smaller than a full orchestra but contains a variety of instruments—Siberian Virtuosi has only two. They don’t sit in front of sheet music—the repertoire is memorized. It’s not a contemporary ensemble—they play mostly traditional pieces, but the arrangements for violin and piano are original.
Founded in 1994, Siberian Virtuosi is led by directors Larisa Gabysheva and Stanislav Afanasenko. The ensemble has garnered many international awards, including an International Festival Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia; “Music Week of Tours” in France; the Grand Prix at a festival in Cremona, Italy, as well as at a festival in Miskolc, Hungary.
In addition to these countries, they have toured Italy, Israel, the United Kingdom, Austria, Portugal, the Ukraine, China, Germany, Croatia, and South Korea. In 2012 they presented 20 concerts in the United States for the first time, Fleishaker explained, before they journeyed to South America for a sold-out series of concerts there. Last December they played at Carnegie Hall, and they are currently in the middle of another North American tour.
Despite their successes, Fleishaker is concerned for the group—at least in the United States. As he explained on Oct. 24, he’s concerned for classical music as a whole.

Surviving Today
As a professional violinist turned manager, Fleishaker speaks from close vantage about the inner workings of the professional music world. In the last 5–10 years, he says, interest in classical music has declined in the United States.
One factor contributing to the decline is that the way venues operate has changed. Previously, executive directors of performing arts centers had control of decision making. If they liked a group, they simply would sign up that ensemble as the calendar allowed. These directors have retired or moved on.
Their replacements no longer control the roster of artists appearing in venues. The new directors must submit a proposal to a board, which ultimately makes the decision. Thus, the director’s enthusiasm must be able to sway a group who may not have expertise in the arts, who may only see the bottom dollar, or who may have their own artistic agendas.
And, if the board contains members of the younger generation, who, given changes in education over the years, have little exposure to the fine arts, classical groups may not be seen as a high priority, he said.
In any case, it’s no longer a simple process for classical performing artists to secure performance dates.
This new booking system is not to the advantage of the arts. For one thing, it forces artists to find ever-increasing ways to market themselves as unique entities. For another, if artists don’t find venues, they won’t be able to perform for the public, and if these traditional works are not presented, they will disappear.
Siberian Virtuosi performs at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York, on Oct. 23, 2016. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Classics: Our Bridges to the Past
“If you don’t present classical ballet, if you don’t see ‘Swan Lake’ being performed, people will forget about it,” Fleishaker said. Once people forget the old works, museums, concerts halls, and venues for the classics will be replaced “by arenas for 50,000 people to see rock-and-roll stars or pop singers.”
This loss, the diminishing access to the classics, is happening very fast, he said. In very short order, we’ve moved, for example, in photography from film to digital photography and now to omnipresent iPhones and apps.
People who haven’t seen this transition, who have only known iPhones, lose perspective. In order to have perspective, you need at least two points of view. By seeing where we were in the past, and seeing the line from the past to the present, we can visualize a trajectory beyond to the future.
This is true of all the classics, he said. Without them, the young cannot compare then and now to gain perspective.
He’s particularly concerned about how growing up without access to the classics will impact the younger generations. For this reason, Fleishaker’s company uses some of the proceeds from paid concerts to support music outreach to elementary schools. He wants youngsters to regain the perspective that past generations always had of knowing their own culture’s past.
“The classics are bridges between the past and the present and should not be burned,” he said.

The Colors of Life
“Why is it important to remember the works of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky?” Fleishaker asked.
These are our cultural treasures. “Call me traditional or old-fashioned, but these works make people richer inside. You learn how to explain your thoughts; you can appreciate life.”
Consider that we use a lot of popular music—popular versus classical—as a background to life, he said. We call it elevator music, and we also jog or exercise to music that we don’t pay much attention to.
But classical music grips us, takes us away and engages us. “It lets you imagine; it can make you think, laugh, feel,” he said.
When he listens to Ravel, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, or Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” he experiences a scene that the composer intended.
Bach, for example, who composed for the church, has a certain intended effect. The “music of Bach always transferred me to a house of God,” Fleishaker said.
Related CoverageSuzuki Instructor Devin Arrington: Classical Music Training Can Break Down Barriers
The classic arts, he says, allow us to see life through different lenses for each of the artists we are exposed to. Listening to classical music by composers of varying eras and from different countries allows us to understand the way things once were, the way people from different countries see things: “This thought can relate to knowing different languages; the more languages you know, the more times you are a human being.”
In sum, the richness of these perspectives helps us see the colors of life. When you learn about the composers, when you experience in your imagination what they intend for you to experience, “you understand that things around you are not just black and white. Everything we look at has colors. We just need to learn how to interpret them and understand.”
Seeing colors is important for the soul, he said.
Samira Bouaou in New York contributed to this report.
In our series “The Classics: Looking Back, Looking Forward,” practitioners involved in the classical arts respond to why they think the texts, forms, and methods of the classics are worth keeping and why they continue to look to the past for that which inspires and speaks to us. For the full series, see ept.ms/LookingAtClassics

A Short History of Tall Buildings: The Making of the Modern Skyscraper

From the legendary Tower of Babel to the iconic Burj Khalifa, humans have always aspired to build to ever greater heights. Over the centuries, we have constructed towering edifices to celebrate our culture, promote our cities—or simply to show off.
The Shard: a tall order. (Davide D’Amico/Flickr, CC BY-SA)
Historically, tall structures were the preserve of great rulers, religions, and empires. For instance, the Great Pyramid of Giza—built to house the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu—once towered over 145 meters high. It was the tallest man-made structure for nearly 4,000 years, before being overtaken by the 160-meter-tall Lincoln Cathedral in the 14th century. Other edifices, such as Tibet’s Potala Palace (the traditional home of the Dalai Lama), or the monasteries of Athos were constructed atop mountains or rocky outcrops, to bring them even closer to the heavens.
Yet these grand historical efforts are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the 20th and 21st centuries. London’s Shard looms at 310 meters tall at its fractured tip—but it’s made to look small by the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, which stands at more than 828 meters. And both these behemoths will be left in the shadows by the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah. Originally planned by architect Adrian Smith to reach 1,600 meters, the tower is now likely to reach one kilometer high, once it’s completed in 2020.
So how did we make this great leap upwards?
Ingredients for Success
We can trace our answer back to the 1880s, when the first generation of skyscrapers appeared in Chicago and New York. The booming insurance businesses of the mid-19th century were among the first enterprises to exploit the technological advancements, which made tall buildings possible.
Home Insurance building. (Library of Congress, Public Domain)
Constructed in the aftermath of the great fire of 1871, Chicago’s Home Insurance building—completed in 1884 by William Le Baron Jenney—is widely considered to be the first tall building of the industrial era, at 12 stories high.
Architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler first coined the term “tall office building” in 1896, drawing on the architectural precedent of Italy’s Renaissance palazzi. His definition denoted that the first two stories are given over to the entrance way and retail activity, with a service basement below, repeated storeys above and a cornice or attic storey to finish the building at the top. Vertical ducts unite the building with power, heat, and circulation. This specification still holds good today.
The American technological revolution of 1880 to 1890 saw a burst of creativity that produced a wave of new inventions that helped architects to build higher than ever before: Bessemer steel, formed into I-sections in the new rolling mills enabled taller and more flexible frame design than the cast iron of the previous era; the newly-patented sprinkler head allowed buildings to escape the strict, 23-meter height limit, which was imposed to control the risk of fire; and the patenting of AC electricity allowed elevators to be electrically powered and rise to ten or more stories.
Early tall buildings contained offices. The typewriter, telephone, and U.S. universal postal system also appeared in this decade, and they revolutionized office work and enabled administration to be concentrated in individual high-rise buildings within a city’s business district.
Changes in urban life also encouraged the switch to taller, higher-density facilities. Street trams, subways, and elevated rail links provided the means to deliver hundreds of workers to a single urban location, decades before the European motor car appeared on American streets and reshaped urban form away from the city grid.
Apart from a few high-rise mansion blocks around Central Park, New York, the terraced house reigned supreme in the crowded cities of the pre-motor car age, such as Paris, London, and Manhattan, and evolved to nine stories in ultra-dense Hong Kong.
Early office towers filled their city blocks entirely, with buildings enclosing a large light and air-well, as an squared U, O, or H shape. This permitted natural light and ventilation within the building, but didn’t provide any public spaces. Chicago imposed a height limit of 40 meters in 1893, but New York raced ahead with large and tall blocks. Many of these, such as the Singer, Woolworth, MetLife, and Chrysler buildings, tapered off with “campanile” towers, battling to be tallest in the world.
Second-Generation Giants
In 1915, following the completion of the 40-storey Equitable building on Broadway, there was such alarm at the darkening streets that New York introduced “zoning laws” that forced new buildings to step ziggurat-like as they rose, in order to bring daylight down to street level.
The Equitable Building, Manhattan. (Yottabytedev/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY)
This meant that while the base still filled the city block, the rest of the tower would rise centrally, stepping back every few stories, and it forced the service core to the building’s center, leading to the loss of the light-well and making mechanical ventilation and artificial lighting essential for human habitation. This was a radical change in the shape of tall buildings, and the second generation of skyscrapers.
As architectural historian Carol Willis would have it, “form follows finance“: the developers of early 20th century high rise office blocks would work out how to maximize the amount of usable floor-space in a city site, before asking an architect to put a wall around it. Such vast wall surfaces with conventional windows invited patterns of geometric decoration, and the ziggurat style came to be the most recognizable architectural symbol of the Art Deco movement.
Race to the top. Photograph of a workman on the framework of the Empire State Building in 1930. (Lewis Hine/National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain)
The mania for profit-driven tall development got out of hand in the late 1920s, however, and culminated in 1931 with the Chrysler and the Empire State buildings. The oversupply of office buildings, the depression of the 1930s and World War II brought an end to the Art Deco boom. There were no more skyscrapers until the 1950s, when the post-war era summoned forth a third generation: the International Style, the buildings of darkened glass and steel-framed boxes, with air conditioning and plaza fronts that we see in so many of the world’s cities today.
The Great Pyramid of Giza. (Nina/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA) The Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. (Coolmanjackey/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA) The 1,000-year-old monasteries of Mount Athos, located on a peninsula east of Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, on Sept. 9, 2005. (Fotis Filargyropoulos/AFP/Getty Images) Torre di Pisa in Pisa, Italy. (Davide Ragusa/Unsplash.com) The Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln, England, on Nov. 30, 2009. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images) Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France. (Noah Rosenfield/Unsplash.com) The Woolworth Building and surrounding buildings, New York City, c. 1913. (Library of Congress, Public Domain) The MetLife Building with Grand Central Terminal in the foreground, in New York City. (Jnn13/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA) Eiffel Tower, in Paris, France. (Louis Pellissier/Unsplash.com) The Empire State building in New York City. (Ben Dumond/Unsplash.com) Cube house in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Tim Gouw/Unsplash.com) Financial District in Toronto, Canada. (Matthew Wiebe/Unsplash.com) Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Donaldytong/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)
David Nicholson-Cole is an assistant professor in architecture at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Romo leads Cowboys to comeback victory

By SCHUYLER DIXON AP Sports WriterARLINGTON, Texas — Tony Romo to Jason Witten saved the Dallas Cowboys again, and it could be at least a month before All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant can help his quarterback again.
Romo threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to his trusty tight end with 7 seconds left, and the Cowboys overcame three turnovers that led to easy New York points to beat the Giants 27-26 on Sunday night.
The Cowboys drove 72 yards in 1:27 after stopping New York at the 1 and forcing Josh Brown's fourth field goal when a touchdown would have sealed the Giants' first victory in an opener against Dallas.
Bryant wasn't on the field for the decisive drive after breaking his right foot, an injury owner Jerry Jones said would sideline the receiver four to six weeks.
The defending NFC East champion Cowboys are 8-0 against their division rival in openers, and have beaten them five straight times.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned a fumble 57 yards for a touchdown, and the Giants had to go just a yard for their other TD after Trumaine McBride's interception.
"We didn't play great in a lot of areas and obviously (protecting) the ball was the biggest one," said Romo, who threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.Read more on NewsOK.com

As Goes North Beach So Could Go New York

San Francisco and New York are different cities with different politics, demographics and economies, but they, more than any other two cities in America, are at the nexus of progressive histories and what are sometimes euphemistically referred to as disruptive economies. The voters of North Beach and surrounding neighborhoods will send a message in San Francisco in November, but observers in New York should take note as we move toward our own citywide elections in 2017.