As a celebrity photographer he is best known for his moody black and white portraits, often elaborately staged and lit to perfection. He says he’s more interested in “creating images than capturing moments,” and with his photography he looks to uncover something about a person that we haven’t seen before not easy when you are working with some of the most familiar faces on the planet. Michael moves easily in this world of fame, fortune and glamour.
Grecco is by profession a portraitist, and like all skilled portraitists he knows how to describe people from the outside in.
What’s more compelling than a human face? As a portrait photographer, Michael Grecco has created iconic photos of the most beautiful stars of film, TV and music. He’s also photographed authors and scientists, skateboarders and musicians, and the locals he meets in his travels around the country. The beauty of these unadorned portraits comes from the humanity and personality that Grecco manages to capture on film….No matter whom he’s photographing, Grecco approaches every subject with intelligence, empathy, humor and intense curiosity.
But there is more to making good editorial portraits than technique. Grecco always does his “homework,” thoroughly researching his subject before he even thinks about shooting. His vision seems to have been shaped by artists and art history, especially surrealism, the early-20th century movement embodied not only by painters such as Dali and Magritte but also by photographers such as the great Man Ray.
….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.
….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….of course, if you’re not already drawn in by Grecco himself. With a background in news photography, he’s not willing to settle for a glossy still. His encouragement of the actors, actresses and fans to go deeper than the typical finger-in-the-mouth pose helps create more revealing looks at these figures even if some of the descriptions of the characters are outdated, such as actress Tera Patrick and rock star-turned-actor Evan Seinfeld, who are no longer married. A lot can happen in four years.
Regardless, as Grecco struggles to find the perfect moment for his book, determined to get pictures of icons such as Larry Flynt and Jenna Jameson, you begin to emphasize with his declaration of, “I don’t simply want to take a picture. I want to take a picture that tells a story.” Based on the magnetism of the Naked Ambition documentary, he’s succeeded.
Photographer Michael Grecco says he got the idea for his latest book after attending the Adult Video Awards. “I went as a spectator because my wife’s in the TV industry,” explains Grecco, a BU grad who shoots celebrity portraits for everyone from Entertainment Weekly to TIME. “It was so over-the-top, I thought I was in a Fellini movie….I just wanted to put these people in a book.” The result is Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry, a picture book that peeks under the silken sheets of the porn industry. With one exception, Grecco got to photograph everyone he approached, including Jenna Jameson, spike-haired former minister Halcyon, and the 6-foot-4 Alexis Skye. The only one who wouldn’t pose? Male film star Evan Stone. “He said he doesn’t do still work,” Grecco told us. For obvious reasons, we can’t publish the photos, but Grecco will give a talk at BU’s Photographic Resource Center on Nov. 26. Asked if his pre-teen kids have seen the book, Grecco said not yet. “It’s almost PG, but not quite.”
Some may consider Art Basel to be pornographic in a way, which may explain why porn star Ron Jeremy is in town. Or not. You see, renowned celeb photographer Michael Grecco is here for a book signing party tonight at the Hustler Hollywood store on Washington Avenue along with porn stars Jeremy and Sunny Lane, who are featured in his latest book, Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X Rated Industry.
From the trailblazing naughtiness of Betty 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, a fine-art book from renowned celebrity photographer Michael Grecco that offers an unabashed peek under the silken covers of the multi-billion dollar porn industry. Published by San Francisco-based Rock Out Books, the beautiful hard cover, full color, 224-page book, strategically oversized at 13 3/4? x 10?, will just barely be able to slide into retail store shelves upon its pre-Holidays publication November 15.
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.
For the text of Naked Ambition, Grecco chose veteran pop culture journalist/author Lonn Friend and former FHM executive editor Rob Hill. The two seasoned scribes crafted insightful essays and biographical captions that lend literary depth to the breathtaking photos. Readers will be both titillated and surprised by the journeys these X-rated performers made from anonymity to erotic stardom. This is not an industry of human casualties, but an eclectic collection of astute, enterprising sexual artists, notes Friend. Some of their stories absolutely boggle the mind.
In Michael Grecco’s new book, Naked Ambition: An R-rated Look at an X-rated Industry, Dave Navarro, the former Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction star says: Rock and porn exist to break taboos. Rock used to have that rebellious up against the world creed . . . That doesn’t exist anymore in the music world but it’s alive and well in the adult industry.
Michael Grecco’s gigantic, glossy, full-color photo book (NSFW) Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look At An X-Rated Industry 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. The event represents the porn mainstream: You won’t find dyke porn companies like Pink and White Productions (pinkwhite.biz), well-known indie porn directors like Tony Comstock (comstockfilms.com), Maria Beatty (bleuproductions.com), or even lucrative independents like Kink.com. Naked Ambition captures all the bright pink everything, Lucite heels, trashy stripperwear, the 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. Glimmers of event horizon seep through in the text: Vivid Video’s Steve Hirsch smartly remarks, “If you are a producer and the majority of your income comes from DVD sales, you are in trouble.
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.
AVN is short for the Adult Video News Awards, a four-day event held in Las Vegas every January that’s best described as the Oscars of Porn. I know all this simply from having enjoyed an early look at Michael Grecco’s fascinating documentary Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry.