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.