Amanda Crew is a Canadian actress and photographer. She is known for her roles in the films Sex Drive (2008), The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), Charlie St. Cloud (2010), as well as playing Monica in the HBO series Silicon Valley.
The 100-Day Project
Originally conceived by designer and professor at Yale School of Art, Michael Bierut, the 100-Day Project calls participants to choose one action to repeat for 100 days. The 100-Day Project has transformed into a movement that encourages the recording and sharing of each journey via the hashtag #The100DayProject. The guidelines that Amanda Crew used for her project can be found on The Great Discontent.
On April 6, Silicon Valley actor Amanda Crew kicked off her 100-Day Project – a challenge to choose one action and repeat it every day for the eponymous 100 days. Crew chose to pursue her hobby, photography, by making a collection of daily portraits embellished with the last text message sent by the subject. She joined the ranks of the magazine The Great Discontent, who announced an Instagram-based take on the original project (once a workshop class at Yale School of Art). In the words of The Great Discontent the 100-Day Project is, “A celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products – it’s about the process.”
Now successfully past her 100th day, Crew talks to us about the project, scouring Los Angeles to find her daily subjects and how her hobby has grown.
Why did you decide to start the 100-Day Project, and how did you choose your approach specifically?
Amanda Crew: I’ve always had a fascination with and admiration for creative projects, whether it be a 365-day project or a 30-day project. The idea of committing to practicing your craft for a certain amount of time really appeals to me. When I saw the 100-Day Project announced on The Great Discontent, it felt like the right time to do it. I knew I wanted to incorporate photography into my project, but I didn’t want to post a random daily photo – I wanted more direction than that. I’ve always been a curious person (curious is just a positive word for nosy) and the idea of peeking into someone’s life via their last text message sounded fun. That’s how the idea for 100 Days of Portraits & Texts was born.
What do you like best about shooting portraits?
AC: As an actor I’m really attracted to human stories. We are all walking on this earth carrying incredible stories that we hardly share, especially with strangers. Portraits are a way to explore those stories. My favorite photos are those in-between moments – the unposed, lost-in-thought ones. It’s a glimpse into someone’s world for half a second.
Why did you choose to use text messages? How do you feel about texting?
AC: I think technology in general has connected the world in a way we never thought possible – even 10 years ago – but it also comes with disconnection. We don’t have to pick up the phone to call a friend who just had their big job interview; we can text them instead. We end up cheating ourselves from having fully connected relationships. And I’m no saint. I’m totally guilty of texting instead of calling.
I think you can learn a lot about a person through their messages, and the different texting “lingo” everyone uses is interesting and telling. Some people are obsessive about punctuation, treating a text like a letter to the President. Others are short, quick filled with “lols” and “omgs.”
How did you choose your subjects?
AC: My only rule was that it had to be a different person each day. Some days I would be hanging with a friend who I hadn’t photographed, so I’d shoot them. Other days I would go out with my camera and find a stranger to photograph. Taking photos of complete strangers was a big reason I created this project for myself – it’s a huge fear that I wanted to overcome. I really struggled at the beginning of this project, but now feel really comfortable with it.
Were people reluctant to stop and share their texts with you?
AC: I was surprised by how open people were to it. I kept a tally of how many people turned me down, and in 100 days only nine people said no – that includes the three high school students who all at once gave me a big, “Hell no.”
“There were so many days
when I was driving around Los Angeles
frantically for hours, fighting the sunset,
trying to find someone to photograph.”
— Amanda Crew
How does it feel to have finished your 100 days? Did your craft evolve over the course of this project?
AC: It’s a pretty common theme for me to set out to do a project then bail out halfway through, so I’m proud of myself for completing this one. I see a lot growth through my project, but also growth that doesn’t necessarily translate through my photos. For example, I no longer break into a cold sweat after asking a stranger if I can take their photo. I used to get anxiety about just pulling out my DSLR in public, and I don’t feel that way anymore. Photography has always been a hobby that I dabbled in, but I had no idea which direction I wanted to move. I think this project helped me figure out my style a bit more.
How did the completed project compare with how you envisioned it?
AC: In my head all the photos were going to be much more uniform and cohesive – a similar color scheme and visual tone – but I got bored very quickly with doing just one thing and started to switch it up. I’m definitely happy that I gave myself that freedom.
What was the most fun part of these 100 days for you? The least?
AC: The most fun part was the people I met. I had some really awesome conversations with complete strangers – conversations I never thought would have come from this project. And, ironically, the least fun part was finding strangers to photograph. There were so many days when I was driving around Los Angeles frantically for hours, fighting the sunset, trying to find someone to photograph. I will not miss that.
What do you hope others will take away from this series?
AC: I hope it inspires them to start their own 100-Day Project and figure out what their version of it is.
What have you taken away from it?
AC: A newfound confidence behind the lens and hunger to create more.
What is your dream photo project?
The Artist’s Way
A self-help book written by Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way is a guide for creative recovery. The book lays out various exercises and techniques designed to actualize creative potential, and made the list of the Top 100 Best Self-Help Books of All Time.
AC: So many! I’d love to shoot an album cover or a stylized concept for a magazine spread, a campaign, a specific print series, direct a music video… I have many dreams.
AC: Hibernation. All jokes aside, I’m not sure. I’m starting The Artist’s Way in a week with a friend, so I’m excited to have a new space to explore what is next.