Awards ceremonies are wonderful opportunities for photography: They provide not only celebrities dressed in their finest but also a chance to glimpse behind the curtain at the personalities and standards of their industry. Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry is a photographic look at the porn industry's biggest awards show: the Adult Video News Awards.

Photographer Michael Grecco took over 13,000 pictures at the 2006 and 2007 AVN Awards to create "an experiment in journalism, using portraiture and still life photography as a document of an event, a time, and a culture." The photos selected became the 224-page coffee table book that is Naked Ambition.

The photos are almost all of the female and male professionals of porn, along with scattered shots of industry, er, toys and accessories. Each photo of a person or people has their name, a nickname ('The Tall and Short of It," "The Fountain," "The Archer," "The Import") and often their comments and brief biography. As the title suggests, these photos could be considered rated "R": no full nudity, but plenty of glimpses.

Naked Ambition also has forewords by Dave Navarro (lead singer of the Foo Fighters), Larry Flynt, and Michael Grecco. Lann Friend and Rob Hill wrote the biographies of the stars, and the celebrities often provide some thoughts and stories of their own.

Naked Ambition works quite well in its goal of documenting the biggest awards ceremony in adult entertainment. While the photos are all posed (no candid shots here), they're not touched up, giving a more human side to the folks than one might see in their films. Naked Ambition covers the spectrum of people in this world, from mainstream adult celebrities (like Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick) to classic stars, alternative performers, people with, er, specialties, lawyers, older folks, transgender performers, and even one very tattooed fan. I also enjoyed Navarro's parallels betwen rock stars and porn stars.

There are a few problems with Naked Ambition. There are no page numbers (and therefore no index), so there's no simple way to go back to a picture you want to see again. There's no rhyme or reason to why some folks get biographies and others just have their name and nickname. And, on occasion, a single photo is split between two pages, sometimes bisecting the subject between the two pages. (On a personal side, I got tired of all the navel piercings pretty quickly.) There are also several typos throughout the book.

Despite those flaws, Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry is quite good at capturing the essence of the AVN Awards and its stars and performers. The photos are very well done, and for those who read the words the bios that are present are amusing. Having this on your coffee table will certainly generate interest!

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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