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Naked Ambition: An R-rated Look at an X-rated Industry Hardcover – November 1, 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"It's the bubble within the sex bubble, and Grecco had a backstage pass" - San Francisco Chronicle -- San Francisco Chronicle, November 15, 2007<br /><br />"Slick and delicious, this 224-page hardcover from Rock Out Books finds celebrity photographer Michael Grecco crossing paths with the brightest stars in the adult film firmament-not to mention the black holes." -- Next Magazine, November Issue 2007<br /><br />"This month [porn] lays claim to our living rooms (or, more precisely, our coffee tables), in the form of a 224-page book of glossy images by L.A.-based photographer Michael Grecco...Suddenly, stashing the porn when company comes over seems so last year."- --Los Angeles Magazine, October 2007

From the Author

Introduction By Michael Grecco

(Or how I went from Penelope Cruz and Will Ferrell to Katsumi and Lexington Steele)

It started back in 2002. My wife and I were invited to the Adult Video News (AVN) Awards Show in Las Vegas. She works in the television industry. "It's the porn Oscars," she told me, "it's totally wild; you'll love it." I was immediately fascinated by the notion.

For many years, I've toiled long and hard shooting high-end, elaborate layouts for magazines, advertising campaigns, movie campaigns and television shows. Of course, I knew the adult film business was huge but it wasn't until I attended that event in Sin City that I knew just how crazy and amazing this subculture of fascinating people truly was. The women, the fashion, the energy and the chaos; the very moment I arrived I knew I had to take this world on as a major photographic project.

The depth of characters demanded the same production values as a mainstream assignment and I was well aware that making it happen was going to be a challenge. It took me three years to find a sponsor for the project and get all the elements - budget, crew, subjects, etc. - in place. In 2006, with a team of 22 people, the adventure began. We headed off to the desert with a grip truck full of props and gear and a belly full of excitement.

We set up three backgrounds in a conference room near the AVN convention floor. This served as our so-called erotic enclave where we'd grab and shoot literally hundreds of individuals over a three-day period. We also constructed two setups backstage during the awards show itself to capture the winner's fresh from victory - and defeat. We left Vegas in January '06 with the bones of a book, total exhaustion and many wild memories.

But that wasn't enough. After almost a year of examining and editing more than 9,000 digital images, I felt we still didn't have the whole picture. So with a stripped-down crew, a spirit of serendipity - and the significant addition of seasoned journalists Lonn Friend and Rob Hill - we returned to the Venetian in January 2007 to procure another 4,000 frames as well as editorial content required to complete my vision. This book is an experiment in journalism, using portraiture and still life photography as a document of an event, a time, and a culture.

What you hold in your hands represents the end of a five-and-a-half year journey. Hope you dig it.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Rock Out Books; First Edition edition (November 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979331404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979331404
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,355,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I love porn and I love art and photography, so I thought I would love Michael Grecco's. That I don't disappoints me greatly- I was expecting so much more from this hyped book. But the photographs don't stand out, neither terribly artistic nor revealing but just "there" (although the flashy colors are remarkable), and the text (by Lonn Friend and Rob Hill) is incredibly annoying.

Did we really need those ubiquitous name tags? "The Scene Stealers", "The Silicon Sisters", "The This and That". Whatever. I would prefer to get my own idea of the subjects without those irritating profiles. The worst comes from the full text accompanying the photos, though. They feel like insincere blurbs written for promotional websites, with that silly emphasis on the person's height and abuse of adjectives and cheap metaphors ("red-and-orange inky surprise" for a tattoo). There is no drama in the writing or in the stories. Everything reads like one big simple porn promo, with no depth. All the interviewees love their job and are oh-so-happy.

As much as I love porn and the behind-the-scenes aspect of the industry, the least I want is an "everything-is-fine" portrait of it all. Grecco could have done much better without the poor, mechanical writing, and with a broader scope as well: focusing on the AVN convention in Vegas exclusively doesn't make for a "look at an X-rated industry", even though most of the big players are included in the book.

I enjoyed Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' "XXX" collection of porn star portraits much more than I did "Naked Ambition". "XXX" captures the glamour and roughness, the joy and sadness of porn with images only (of clothed and naked people), something "Naked Ambition" fails to do with its fully-clothed pictures and happy-happy promotional paragraphs. There are, anyway, better artsy and in-depth books on the industry, with more engaging images and text.

Sorry, Mr. Grecco...
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Format: Hardcover
Review originally published in the Hipster Book Club, March 2008.

Michael Grecco's gigantically oversized tome represents the culmination of a five-year journey to document the bodies, chaos, and richness of character at the Adult Video News Awards Show, held annually in Las Vegas and charmingly referred to as the "porn Oscars." Naked Ambition is a pop culture art book that the author doesn't want relegated to a low bookshelf in the photography section.

Grecco, whose background is in both photojournalism and portraiture, normally works with the corporate machine of celebrity culture. In this book, he relishes photographing unguarded subjects who appear un-retouched in the well-composed, oversized images. The photographer's lens gazes directly into the eyes of his models, capturing them as complex artists, not sleaze robots. Grecco's subjects are fully clothed and posed in a decidedly non-provocative manner. The outfits are outrageous and the make-up is thick, but Grecco never allows his subjects to titillate the camera. He captures joyous laughter, moments of pensive thought, and direct, unflinching stares from the myriad of artists with whom he worked.

The author assigned snarky titles to each model to reflect his or her niche in the industry. Grecco's first portraiture subject is Larry Flynt, contributor of one of the book's two introductions. After a regal portrait of the publishing magnate in his wheelchair, the reader meets the biggest star of the modern era, Jenna Jameson ("The Queen"), photographed with a male assistant attending to her magenta floor-length ball gown. Highly paid stars Ron Jeremy ("The Jester"), Brittney Skye ("The Independent"), Jessica Drake ("The Hostess"), and Peter North ("The Fountain") make appearances early in the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Michael Grecco gave a lecture for the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University when he unveiled this coffee table book with lots of unveiled portraits. Since Grecco had gotten his start in Boston working for the "Boston Herald" as a photographer, his lecture was very appropriate. He was well spoken, showed lots of his previous work and several short film segments, mostly time-lapse shots of he and his large crew taking the photos of this book's many Porn Stars.
After all the fan-fare and hype accompanying this book I was actually a little disappointed in it. However, after carefully examining the beautifully produced book, I realized that it had been the hoopla of the release that had somewhat put me off. Grecco seemed obsessed with turning the next AVN (Adult Video News Awards Show) in Las Vegas into a full-length production for "Home Box Office" or "Show Time." At the time he was constantly harping on this and complaining about the $50,000 he was going to have to pay the award's sponsors just to make the film, I had the feeling that his still pictures had probably suffered from Grecco being distracted with his documentary film making.
However, once removed from all the flashy promotions I realized that Grecco had done a very good job with his 13,000 photograph coverage. Except for too many images of sex toys that made the volume look a bit too much like an X-rated Sex Toy catalogue, I realized that most of the public had probably never seen those types of toys and certainly hadn't taken the time to appreciate the aesthetics of their often beautiful designs. Such toys not only serve a specific service, but also are in many cases quite colorful and beautiful pieces of functional art.
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