Los Angeles Times – Movie Review

Michael Grecco’s “Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-rated Industry” is an entertaining, adeptly crafted documentary that treats its provocative subject matter with refreshing respect. Top celebrity portrait photographer Grecco turned his cameras on the 2006 and 2007 Adult Video News Awards — “The Oscars of Porn” — and their accompanying conventions, during which he held a dizzying number of photo shoots with the events’ anything-goes participants.

Washington Post – Movie Review

Powerful Peep Show: ‘Naked Amibition: An R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry’ on DVD
At one point in Michael Grecco’s documentary on the world of porn, actress and director Joanna Angel says, “Nobody feels lukewarm about pornography. They either love it or they hate it.” And though Grecco’s film, “Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry,” certainly sympathizes with the members of that world, it’s not just fluff. Instead, Grecco tries to get to the bottom of a subculture churning out $12 billion a year, and in doing so, he creates a relatable narrative and exposes personal stories that make the industry, its participants and supporters seem far less superficial than you would expect. Grecco, a photojournalist who worked for The Boston Herald and the Associated Press before transitioning into celebrity portrait work, started with the idea of creating a coffee-table book about the porn industry that “people would actually put on their coffee table.”

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A Look At The Bare Skin Inside

Duluth News Tribune – Movie Review

WHAT IT IS: As its subtitle so keenly spells out, “Naked Ambition” is “an R-rated look at an X-rated industry.” Watch as celebrated celebrity photographer Michael Grecco seeks out the adult industry’s biggest stars at the annual AVN Awards in Las Vegas (aka “the Oscars of the porn industry”) during the Adult Entertainment Expo as he attempts to capture the XXX world in a collection of classy-for-the-most-part portraits. The film is a companion piece to the finished product: a coffee table book of the same name.

WHAT ONE JERK THINKS ABOUT IT: I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was Grecco able to keep his “R-rated” promise — about exploring the adult entertainment industry in a manner most who aren’t religious fundamentalists can enjoy — but he was also able to really dive into the subject matter at hand in an intimate* and informative manner. By allowing the tale of small-town charmer Sunny Lane (who was up for AVN’s prestigious Best New Starlet award the year “Naked Ambition” was produced) to drive the narrative, Grecco effectively proved that even one of the most-despised industries is capable of having a heart. Also impressive is how Grecco manages to capture out-there sex toys introduced at the expo in a manner that’s not at all blush-inducing. Despite the overarching lighthearted nature of “Naked Ambition,” however, not a lot of screen time is dedicated to Ron Jeremy, perhaps the all-time king of stag-to-mainstream crossover success — a curious omission in an otherwise superbly executed documentary.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO ABOUT IT: Rent it. Unless your religion frowns upon you learning about subcultures via fascinating documentaries, that is.

*Pun sort of intended….

The Film Yap – Movie Review

When a DVD shows up on your doorstep and you rip open the package to see Jenna Jameson, Ron Jeremy and Jesse Jane gracing the cover, it’s hard to know what to expect. Then when the tagline states “An R rated look at an X rated industry”, it’s a little difficult to believe, but that’s precisely what Michael Grecco’s “Naked Ambition” turned out to be.

First and foremost, Grecco isn’t some hack. He’s shot covers for Time, Wired, Entertainment Weekly and other top magazines as well as being an AP photojournalist. He has the resume to pull off such an ambitious project and does it easily. It would have been easy to have bare breasts and other parts of the anatomy displayed throughout this documentary, and while there are moments of possibly objectionable material, it’s not over the top. Grecco presents a documentary that is as tasteful as it can be and is more eye opening than one would imagine.

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Blackbook Magazine – Interview

Dubbed “An R-rated look at an X-rated industry,” celebrity photographer Michael Grecco has released Naked Ambition, an, um, ambitious snapshot of the porn industry. Grecco’s project is part coffee table book, part making-of documentary of said coffee table book . . . Grecco, who’s shot some heavyweights in his time, ventured to the AVN awards (or the Oscars of porn, as they’re referred to in the film) in the mid-aughts, and shot some of the industry’s biggest names: Jenna Jameson, Tera Patrick, Jesse Jane, they’re all there. The film focuses on then-newcomers Joanna Angel and Sunny Lane as they vie for the Best New Starlet award, and introduces us to all sorts of freaks, exhibitionists, and, well, pornstars. Here he is, on, among other things, the difference between shooting Sunny Lane and Steven Spielberg.

Click here to read the full interview.

LAist – Book Review

“Like everything else in this business, this is chaos.” This is what Lonn Friend, Naked Ambition writer, told me when I showed up at the Naked Ambition signing at Book Soup in reference to the way the event was going. For an event full of porn stars, it was actually quite tame, and not so much chaotic as lackadaisical.

Dave Navarro and Naked Ambition writer Lonn Friend. Navarro wrote the forward to the book, which reminds readers that “Rock stars and porn stars spend their lives on stage or screen acting out their innermost desires.” And, I’d add to that, the innermost desires of a lot of other people.

Hollywood Reporter – Director Profile

Grecco’s approach to interviewing some of the leading actresses working in porn movies today reflects his own roots in still photography. He observes in the film that a good still photograph should leave the viewer wanting to know more. “I’m a portrait photographer and I approached the documentation of this sub-culture as doing portraits of the people,” he explained. “I approached it as a sociologist would. I wanted a portrait where you’re looking at people’s eyes and you’re wondering what they’re thinking or there’s a more subtle emotion or there’s something going on that makes you stare into the portrait.”

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Los Angeles Times – Entertainment News

‘Naked Ambition’: The MPAA’s still scared of sex.

For some reason, I’ve been knee deep in red-band trailers this week. First it was the new “Borat” trailer, which the MPAA labeled red-band (meaning that it is restricted from being shown in front of youth-oriented films). Now it’s a trailer for “Naked Ambition: An R-rated Look at an X-rated Industry,” a new documentary about the adult film business by Michael Grecco, a prominent celebrity photographer. The film, which opens in L.A. on May 1 at the Laemmle Sunset 5, offers a behind-the-scenes portrait of adult film stars, talking about their work and how they ended up in the business.

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"Naked Ambition, An R-Rated Look At An X-Rated Industry" – Movie Press Release

From the trailblazing naughtiness of Bettie Page to the pole-dancing craze of modern housewives, the continual mainstreaming of adult entertainment is undeniable. Now comes Naked Ambition, An R-Rated Look At An X-Rated Industry from renowned celebrity photographer Michael Grecco that offers an unabashed peek under the silken covers of one of the few remaining concealed idiosyncrasies of pop culture, the multi-billion dollar porn industry. Naked Ambition, An R-Rated Look At An X-Rated Industry will open theatrically on May 1st from Lantern Lane Entertainment in association with KHG Documentary Productions.

Click here to download the full press release (PDF)

Naked Ambition – Book Press Release

Naked Ambition takes readers to a surreal setting where thousands travel each January: the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas. Culling from well over 13,000 photographs taken during two recent AVN awards shows and conventions, Grecco gained access backstage and in every other area of the four-day Las Vegas pornography extravaganza. The result is a unique collection that captures artistic, revealingly human portraits of porn stars and filmmakers, both legends and literal newcomers. Along with human subjects, the book features provocative props, hardware, footwear, sex toys and gadgets used exclusively in the adult industry.

Click here to download the full press release (PDF)

San Francisco Chronicle – Book Review

Michael Grecco’s gigantic, glossy, full-color photo book is not hot. It’s chock-full of porn performers, from the famous to the never-arrived, and their various tools of the trade, from sex dolls and glass dildos to stripper heels, and it shows acres of flesh. And it’s about sex. But arousing, no. It’s wholly unerotic. It’s also utterly compelling, impossible to stop looking at, and difficult to put down.

It’s the bubble within the sex bubble, and Grecco had a backstage pass. “Naked Ambition” captures all the bright pink everything, Lucite heels, trashy stripperwear, het stereotypes and big-boobed blondes that seem fresh from a trip through a 1990s frat-boy time machine. It’s DVD culture (far, far from Internet culture) and dated sexuality, preserved like a pornified Twinkie in its format and distribution channels.

Blackbook Magazine – Book Review

Needless to say, Grecco’s latest outing is a far cry from his highly-acclaimed work in magazines like Wired, Time, and Entertainment Weekly. Naked Ambition shies away from exploitation by virtue of Grecco’s revealing photos, which are hybrids of similar works by Diane Arbus and Dave LaChapelle. His is an intimate-short of pornographic-look at the flawed figures who keep the world’s most artificial industry afloat. The book is neither sex nor sexy, but honest in its examination of Debbies who do Dallas.

Philadelphia City Paper – Book Review

When the family drops by this holiday season, get their juices flowing early by leaving Michael Grecco’s new photo collection open-faced in front of the TV. A celeb and advertising photog by day, Grecco favors bold, confrontational images that meet the viewer’s gaze with almost uncomfortable directness.

Grecco’s up-close and decidedly un-retouched pics reveal every blemish, wrinkle and razor burn. Not that Grecco in any way passes judgment; rather he puts the colorful characters on display.

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Philadelphia Weekly – Book Review

What happens in Las Vegas rarely stays there. In Naked Ambition, celebrity portrait photographer Michael Grecco presents a genital-warts-and-all pictorial expose of the porn industry’s equivalent of the Oscars. The book examines the inner workings of the annual AVN ceremony while also managing to humanize fantasy icons.

Although the straight porn world takes center stage, Grecco also profiles gay porn stars and offers up museum-quality photos of sex toys. Grecco seems determined to prove pornography can be a valid art form.

Next Magazine – Book Review

Grecco’s lens makes Larry Flynt look as dignified as the Lincoln Memorial, while Jenna Jameson channels a satin-wrapped jazz-lounge chanteuse. The accompanying interviews, juxtaposing philosophical insights with suitably trashy industry dish, complete the surprisingly classy package. This might just be your mom’s triple-X art book.

Miami Herald – Book News

Some may consider Art Basel to be pornographic in a way…Or not. You see, renowned celeb photographer Michael Grecco is here along with porn stars Jeremy and Sunny Lane, who are featured in his latest book. A great coffee table book for those times when your cocktail party takes a turn towards the Ambien-t— also features images of Jenna Jameson, Tera Patrick and more.

American Photo Magazine – Gallery Review

Michael Grecco calls his project about porn “Naked Ambition,” but he might just as well have well titled it with a quote supplied by one of his subjects, the actress Jada Fire. “If you have a pussy,” she explains, “you will never starve.”

We all arrive at the subject of porn with certain assumptions, and Ms. Fire succinctly states one of these: It isn’t personal. It’s business.
In undertaking this project, Grecco turns his skill as a celebrity portraitist to another use, as a social documentarian. The idea came to him after he attended the 2002 adult film awards, the “Oscars of porn,” and beheld what he says was a bewildering alternate world. He decided to record that world, filled with its own language, dress codes, and mores, as an anthropologist might. “I was content if my images simply spoke for themselves,” he says.

Like all skilled portraitists, Grecco also knows how to describe people from the outside in. Richard Avedon once said that portraitists have only surfaces to work with, but surfaces can of course be revealing. Here, Grecco captures a world of outrageous and costumes, outlandish makeup, and brazen behavior. It is a world defined by a sense of being outside the mainstream, and personalities bound together by that sense.

In these photographs, it is mainstream culture that exists in the margins, eagerly consuming the products manufactured by porn but in turn being rejected by that world. It isn’t personal, though. It’s business.

The Exhibit Designer – Gallery Review

About a month or two back I visited the Museum of Sex in NY . . . On view during that time was Naked Ambition, an exhibition of Michael Grecco’s photographs from the AVN Awards in Las Vegas. I thought the photography was quite good, and the stories were interesting . . . Lowercase Helvetica Rounded for the title and the curvalicious typeface used for the “nicknames” above the photographs gave the exhibition just enough punchiness without detracting too much from the photographs. (Most of which were, ahem, punchy enough on their own.) The short biographies were interesting to read . . . The . . . nice touch on these . . . is in the way they were produced—the entire box was printed on vinyl and the names were physically cut from the black band so that the wall showed through. I liked that detail.

New York Daily News – Book News

Get an R-rated look at an X-rated world! Renowned celebrity photographer and author Michael Grecco hits Rizzoli Book Store for a lecture and book signing for his new book, “Naked Ambition,” a look at the multi-million dollar pornography industry. Special guests include Ron Jeremy, Luc Wylder, Alexandra Silk and others.

Boston Now – Book Review

Don’t judge this book by its cover. For that matter, don’t judge it by its title either. Instead, photographer Michael Grecco would rather have you reserve any judgments you may have until you’ve taken the time to not only look at but read his new book, Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry.

“We gave it a catchy subtitle of An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry because that gives people permission to buy the book,” Grecco said. “Well, it’s not about porn. It’s about art.”

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An entertaining, adeptly crafted documentary that treats its provocative subject matter with refreshing respect.

- Los Angeles Times

This beautifully printed hard cover book offers an unabashed peek under the silken covers of one of the few remaining concealed idiosyncrasies of pop culture, the multi-billion dollar porn industry. The book features full color portraits of your favorite adult stars with forewords by Larry Flynt and Dave Navarro. All books are signed by Michael Grecco. HARDCOVER: 224 pages, 13 x 10 inches, $39.95. Free delivery within the USA.

Buy The Book

Join celebrity photographer Michael Grecco as he presents a humorous, sometimes introspective, always unexpected behind-the-scenes look at the Oscars of the Porn Industry. See your favorite adult stars and meet some new ones in this unprecedented and uncensored examination of the Adult film industry awards. Featuring: Jesse Jane, Ron Jeremy, Jenna Jameson, Larry Flynt and Sunny Lane. DVD Street Date: April 20, 2010
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