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Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry [Hardcover]

Grecco , Michael , Lonn Friend
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 29.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

2 April 2008
Almost certainly the most controversial fine photography book of the year, Naked Ambition is Grecco's documentation of the porn industry - a candid, behind-the-scenes look at an often taboo subject. It takes viewers to a surreal setting where thousands travel each January - the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas. Over two years Grecco gained backstage access and the result is this unique collection that captures artistic, evocative human portraits of the stars and makers ofporn. Certainly not explicit, but most definitely revealing.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: SCB DISTRIBUTORS (2 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979331404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979331404
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 25.9 x 35.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 710,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Much bigger than I thought 1 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Much bigger than I thought but makes it more of a great price. The box it came in was very over sized though
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, but... 30 May 2008
By LeMieux-Ruibal - Published on Amazon.com
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...
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunningly intimate yet never explicit portrait of the world's most outrageous industry 5 Mar 2008
By Jessica Lux - Published on Amazon.com
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.

Although the book opens with some of the biggest household names, the subjects of Naked Ambition are not limited to mainstream contract video stars. Grecco raises the stakes by featuring alternative stars like Joanna Angel, who produced a zombie movie homage called Repenetrator; six-foot-five runway model Alexis Skye, who is paid to hawk products in skintight latex and heels which raise her height to seven feet; and handicapped on- and off-screen couple Diablo and Kitten. Brash freelance artist Michelle Aston is photographed twice in artistic nudes which display her full-body tattoo art and shaved head. Over half a dozen transsexual performers are featured, including drag queen/filmmaker Chi Chi LaRue, who was an early activist for condom use in adult films and appears both in drag and au naturel in Grecco's portrait spread.

More than just a photography book, Naked Ambition is chock-full of insider info, biographical information, and quotes from performers from all walks of life. While Grecco was on a mission to gather the most dizzying array of Fellini-esque pageantry, editors Lonn Friend and Rob Hill were tasked with exploring the subjects as artists. The reader gets to meet a trio of Christian evangelist adult performers, a sister-sister team, and even two performers filmed with their mothers by their sides, all of whom discuss their backgrounds at length. Of course, the reader is also invited to gawk at the lushly photographed tools of the trade, from fake eyelashes to footwear worthy of design awards and Lucite objets d'art.

Michael Grecco has produced a stunningly intimate yet never explicit portrait of the world's most outrageous industry. By taking the focus off pornography and sex, he has forced performers to stop performing for a moment, to let their humanity be captured on film.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Honest Portrait of the Hottest Porn Stars 10 Feb 2009
By James R. Holland - Published on Amazon.com
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. In many cases it was fun to try to figure out just what was the intended purpose of the pictured item. Two-thirds of the way through the volume was a double-page spread of a metal device that looked like it might be left over from the days of the Spanish Inquisition. Of course there was no title or picture caption for this picture of a very complicated looking mousetrap, which I understand is really a mouth trap. It doesn't look like something most people would ever want to sample, but hey, what do I know?
This book has very telling portraits of many of the best-known names in the porn industry, both the actors in front of the camera and the army of workers behind the camera. Many of the individual portraits are quite telling and often appear to have been taken sans (God Forbid) any make-up on the actors or actresses. Many of the multiple portraits are quite humorous and totally unexpected. It's obvious many of the subjects in this photographic essay were having a good time participating in this legit photographic documentation. They probably realized their place in the history of the business was in the process of being given the seal of approval by the mainstream world. Some of the best photographs were of the older, past their prime, but still sexy and kinky actors. The pictures of many of the female porn idols with their tattooed Hell's Angels with shaved heads bodyguards were particularly well done. The contrast was stunning.
Bravo photojournalist Michael Grecco! Even if you don't eventually get to make that television special, you've certainly done a fine job documenting the porn industry. Your portraits show the kinky, fantasy characters unmasked, but still provide a telling glimpse of the interesting people behind the fantasy.
5.0 out of 5 stars nice conversation piece 9 Dec 2013
By Tim Paulus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Love this book. It's exactly what it says, R-rated, it's not too risque to keep on the coffee table, which is where mine is now. Great conversation piece when you have guests.
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Grecco, Master of the Universe 13 May 2009
By J. A. Weisman - Published on Amazon.com
i was not expecting to like this book. sure, i like pornography. what i like even more than pornography are thoughtful commentaries on pornography. but as porn has gone mainstream, the commentary on porn has become less incisive and interesting. porn stars are just stars who happen to engage in pornography; they are treated like every other celebrity for the most part, and the media has gotten lazy about what makes pornography so interesting.

michael grecco understands why his subjects are interesting. he appreciates the madness of the AVN convention and the spectacle of the porn industry while always remembering that his subjects are just people, just trying to get by, as human as everyone else.

this is a magnificent book.
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