SECRET FORTS A COLLECTION OF GOOD THINGS Tue, 16 Dec 2014 03:30:04 +0000 en hourly 1 DOWN SOUTH IN HELL : GRANT TAYLOR, NIKE SB. Tue, 16 Dec 2014 03:27:44 +0000 mrforts Continue reading ]]>
No secret that we here at the Fort think this dude is Elite class ripper. Nike SB has finally given the guy a shoe with his name on it, a take on their classic low Blazer. Now, if buying a pair somehow enables these old bones to shred anything like what’s caught in the above video, I’m old. I mean, sold.

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ALL STAR TEAM : MIKE MANDEL’S BASEBALL PHOTOGRAPHER TRADING CARDS. Mon, 15 Dec 2014 19:48:02 +0000 mrforts Continue reading ]]>
In 1974, photographer and San Francisco Art Institute student Mike Mandel enlisted many close friends and colleagues to satire the then recent cult of celebrity and validation of photography as its own bonafide art form which had been bestowed upon them by the powers that be in the art world. A great essay, written by Aaron Schuman, appeared in Aperture Magazine #2OO in the Fall of 2O1O and is posted below in its entirety. Read on after the jump.

In 1974, just a year before Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan, classmates at the San Francisco Art Institute, were awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts to pursue what eventually became their seminal project, Evidence, Mandel found himself becoming frustrated by the growing competitiveness within photographic circles. “[In the Seventies] it seemed that the photo community was comprised of a group of dedicated artists, who. . . had been snubbed by the art world for having the audacity to negate the imperative of the unique, precious object,” Mandel wrote in 1999, “But a strange thing happened about that time: the art world discovered photography. . . Competitions for NEA grants and university jobs began to revolve around the hierarchy of art world professionals.”
Mandel’s response was to embark on The Baseball Photographer Trading Cards, a collection of 134 informal portraits of photographers posing as baseball players, which were produced in the manner of ordinary trading cards, complete with index numbers, accompanying statistics and quotes on the reverse side, and were then sold in packs of ten—complete with bubble gum donated by Topps, the leading producer of sports-related cards at the time. “I wanted to lampoon the newfound celebrity-hood of photo personalities in the art marketplace,” Mandel explains, also remembering that during his own baseball-card collecting childhood, “cards made the players more accessible—in fact, public property.”
Today, the persistent debate surrounding photography’s validity as Art (with a capital A) can seem dated and tiresome, yet the underlying sense of inferiority that many worthy, accomplished, and celebrated photographers have suffered over the years is well evidenced throughout the medium’s history, in both imagery and photo-related writings. Reassuringly, alongside this streak of angst there has also always run a vein of confidence in the medium as a relevant pursuit in its own right, without need for comparison or justification in relation to the traditional arts. In 1913, after spending several decades doggedly defending the artistic merits of photography, Alfred Stieglitz bluntly summarized his argument: “Photographers must learn not to be ashamed to have their photographs look like photographs.” Several years later, encouraged by Stieglitz’s call for “straight photography”, Paul Strand famously rejected the conceits of Pictorialism—the art-photography of his day—dismissing it as “fuzzygraphs” that ultimately expressed “an impotent desire to paint.” Similarly, Lewis Hine rejoiced in the fact that his documentary work had been recognized for conveying “the value of realistic photography, which has for some time been displaced by the fuzzy impressionism of the day.” And even as late as 1971, Walker Evans was championing photography in the face of its straggling doubters: “[P]hotography, a despised medium to work in, is full of empty phonies and worthless commercial people,” he remarked. “That presents quite a challenge to the man who can take delight in being in a very difficult, disdained medium.”
From these examples and many others, one gets the sense that photographers—at least a certain kinds of photographers—have always taken pleasure in inhabiting the role of the outcast, the charlatan, the underdog. It is not surprising, then, that during the latter half of the twentieth century, when photography finally began to be embraced rather than rejected by the art world, mixed feelings were stirred, and a certain sense of mistrust arose among many practitioners. In response, a number of photographers rapidly turned away from notions of the medium as one of fine craftsmanship and purist aesthetics, and sought refuge in more vernacular territories, experimenting with popular rather than “artistic” forms of photography. In 1963 Ed Ruscha (#22 in The Baseball Photographer Trading Cards, shielding his eyes from the bright sun in search of an imaginary fly-ball) adopted an intentionally amateurish, “snapshot” approach in his Twentysix Gasoline Stations, and later adapted conventional aerial photography for his own conceptual purposes in Thirtyfour Parking Lots (1967). In the late 1960s John Baldessari began incorporating intentionally “bad” or “wrong” photographs into his canvases, instantly imbuing them with artistic merit. In 1971 Stephen Shore produced Amarillo: Tall in Texas, a series of ten generic-looking, geographically unspecific commercial postcards, which he then surreptitiously distributed in various stores and postcard-racks across America.
Mandel’s Trading Cards sit comfortably within this movement—the half-ironic, half-sincere reappropriation of everyday images and photographic contexts—and also reflect an almost exaggerated unpretentiousness through the performances of many of their subjects. A baby-faced Larry Sultan (#13) poses satirically pious as an altar boy, his two hands clasped around a baseball, his wide eyes aimed toward the heavens; a grinning Beaumont Newhall (#103) is subsumed by a face-mask and chest protector, jokingly playing the umpire-in-chief behind home-plate; on the back of her card, Joyce Neimanas (#37) proclaims: “You should bunt to sacrifice yourself to the runner”; and on the front of another, Bill Owens (#31) does just that, bunting the approaching camera back down toward the ground; a bemused William Eggleston (#126) looks at his glove, apparently surprised that the ball has actually managed to land in it—the back of his card reads “No comment.” Even Mandel’s own card (#24) shows him releasing a curveball, subtly implying that although he may appear to be aiming straight at the target, his delivery will deliberately veer away from the strike-zone at just the last second. It’s as if all these newfound “photo-celebrities” are reminding the viewer—and perhaps more importantly, one another—that despite their impending art-stardom, at heart they’re still just goofy kids with cameras who don’t take themselves too seriously.
Of course, today these cards no longer convey accessibility or lampoon the celebrity of their subjects. Instead, they have become coveted icons in their own right, treasured totems to heroes of previous generations. Eggleston’s cool bemusement is now legendary, the disorientating break of Mandel’s artistic pitch is now venerated, and the overall wit and comedic self-mockery of 1970s Conceptual photography is much revered. Mandel fully acknowledges this: in the last several years complete sets of the cards have been auctioned, by Mandel and others, for thousands of dollars. “I find myself in the position of selling these at a premium, participating in the same commercial matrix that the cards originally intended to parody,” Mandel has written. “I can accept that. Now they are historic artifacts of an earlier generation of photography.”
Yet it is important to recognize that these are not just individual artifacts of particular practitioners. Collectively, Mandel’s Trading Cards testify to the humble, joyous, and ultimately supportive spirit of a small, tightly knit network that truly shared a passion for a once “distained medium” at a particularly awkward point in time, and mutually refused the egotism and envy that can so easily accompany the approach of artistic success. Now that photography, the art world, and the “commercial matrix” have fully merged to form a severely competitive atmosphere around the medium, one hopes that Mandel’s Baseball Photographer Trading Cards will not only be relegated to the collectibles market, but might also serve as a quiet reminder that photography thrives best on community and collectivity, rather than through fierce competition. To quote Yogi Berra: “It ain’t the heat; it’s the humility.”

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THE BOARD, F/W’14. Thu, 11 Dec 2014 03:28:53 +0000 mrforts

Your pictorial guide to a proper, stylish, adventurous and perhaps even slightly dangerous Winter season.

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AGENDA : #PUFNYC, 2014. Thu, 11 Dec 2014 02:24:55 +0000 mrforts Continue reading ]]>
Having put in some time at a few of these, it’s undoubtedly a great time and a great event repleat with and put on by great people which has, in just a few short years, grown in size, scope and geography. This weekend, they’re back in the city where it all began.
If you’re in the area, stop in, #shopsmall and get handsome.

Pop Up Flea
125 West 18th Street (nr. 6th Ave)
New York City

Friday, Dec 12th: 3pm to 8pm
Saturday, Dec 13th: 11am to 7pm
Sunday, Dec 14th: 12pm to 6pm

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MOVING PICTURES : ENGINEERED GARMENTS “TRAVEL & SAFARI”. Wed, 10 Dec 2014 15:58:49 +0000 mrforts
Which have you dissected more intensely? The above “Travel & Safari” video for SFs fave Engineered Garments SS15 collection or the minute and a half J.J. Abrams “Episode VII” trailer?
Us too.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING from SECRET FORTS. Thu, 27 Nov 2014 19:08:37 +0000 mrforts

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HIT MAKER : OAK STREET TRAPPER BOOT. Tue, 25 Nov 2014 02:51:08 +0000 mrforts Continue reading ]]>
Oak Street Bootmakers, a long time friend of SFs and written about quite often around these parts, just keeps cranking out some damn good looking, US bench made footwear. One of their recent releases, along with the extremely handsome Color 8 Dainite Sole Trench Boot, is another handsome make up, their new chukka style Trapper Boot in khaki suede. The run down…
Khaki Horween Calico waterproof suede. Hand-stitched moccasin construction. Vibram 2060 sole. Form-fitting inner. Waxed stitching. Rawhide laces. Handcrafted in the USA. $352. #Booyah.
According to George, “The Horween Calico leather that was selected for this boot is a waterproof suede - developed for year-round durability. The Trapper Boot is the first time Oak Street Bootmakers has made use of the Vibram 2060 sole. Originally developed for sportsmen, it provides a unique silhouette and is incredibly lightweight - allowing for all day comfort. As with all Oak Street Bootmakers footwear, the Trapper Boot is crafted by hand, one pair at a time - on a bench, in Maine, the old fashioned way.”

‘Nuff said…Click over to Oak Street to have a look.

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TECHNICALLY SPEAKING : APOLIS FW14 TRANSIT ISSUE OUTERWEAR. Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:33:14 +0000 mrforts Continue reading ]]>
A long time friend to and longer term fan of the fellas over at the social responsibility minded Apolis Global, our relationship grew out of early posts on the first Secret Fort on early collections of theirs. One thing that initially got my attention and always stood out for me then (and has continued to ever since) is their outerwear. Being responsible for what now can assuredly be considered a “modern classic”, the indigo wool chore coat, Raan, Shea and co. have once again raised the bar with their recently released Transit Issue technical jackets designed and constructed to take just about anything you can throw at em.

Beginning the process back in 2012, Apolis teamed up with Swiss design partners, Matthieu & Thomas, headquartered just outside of Zurich and are well known for their “expertise with technical performance fabrics” and what sounds like fairly rigorous “product field-testing in Antarctica”. Their goal for this Transit Issue collection (as always) was to develop, produce and provide the most durable and smart range of products with a focus on travel and simple performance in any and all circumstances and climates. A range of products tailored, light weight, functional, smart and practical.
According to the Apolis team, “Regularly we partner with global suppliers to manufacture products that equip and empower global citizens. Over the years we have come to understand that authentic results come from the daily partnerships with our manufacturers that allow us to maintain equal responsibility for all successes and failures.”
With this collection, the fabrication comes from Poland using the “highest social and environmental standards”. Apolis and their Swiss design partners chose for the Transit Issue Field Jacket and my favorite of the lot the Transit Issue Nomad Parka (that hood though…) a densely woven 100% Japanese cotton that is both breathable and when exposed to moisture, swells by as much as 10% becoming waterproof.

My standout favorite of the bunch, the Nomad Parka nods to the classic fishtail parka design while elevating it to a distinctly technical level. Interior taped seams, water resistant zippers, laser cut vent holes, weather proof zips, throat latch to minimize wind exposure, a modern slim fit and minimal bulk. And that hood.

The equally dope Field Jacket shares the same construction, reconfiguring and updating the classic M-65 with a stand collar, a pretty nifty stowable hood in the collar, welded vertical zipped chest pocket and buttoned cuff extensions.

Both the Transit Issue Bomber Jacket and Shirt Jacket are made from lightweight Japanese nylon with Primaloft insulation and smartly pack into a travel pillow(so you don’t have to walk around the airport with that fuzzy, fleece pink leopard print croissant thing around your neck.)
Designed to both stand alone or button into either the Nomad Parka or Field Jacket as liners. Again, smart.

The FW14 Transit Issue outerwear collection is both a seamless continuation of just one of the things Raan and Shea and the rest of the Apolis team do so well and also a clear and significant stepping up of their game. As always, nicely done fellas. All these years later, I’m still a huge fan.

images via Apolis/Ken Tisuthiwongse/Travis Gillett

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OUT/ABOUT/HERE/THERE/THEN/NOW Tue, 11 Nov 2014 15:25:33 +0000 mrforts Continue reading ]]>

It’s been a big year with a very long absence from duties here and so, as a result, a monster of a post here. I’ve added “THEN/NOW” to the title of this particular one as it feels like more of a significant timeline than any previous OUT/ABOUTs as it spans nearly 3/4s of 2014. The gutting and renovating of our Secret Fort on a quiet hill here in Nashville has been the most difficult and rewarding of projects I’ve undertaken. But with that mostly behind us, the intention is to get back to the rebuilding of this, the original Secret Fort, with an eventual re-design and a re-dedication to the creation of its content. That said, stay with me here, check out SFs companion site As Is Shop where you’ll find gently used items from SFs archived past Head to Toes along with other good things and the once in a while special project. Like I said, it’s been a big year and I hope for things to only get bigger and better. And thanks for still coming around these parts to find the fort.

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OPEN FOR BUSINESS : As Is Shop Wed, 05 Nov 2014 23:08:54 +0000 mrforts Continue reading ]]>
As Is Shop is an online project offering up for sale items from the SFs Head to Toe archives as well as some other cool things and the occasional special project here and there. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Over the coming weeks and months, wrinkles will be ironed out as items rotate through. So please bear with me.
The initial group of 25 items are up now with more to come.
Shipping (UPS ground) within the US right now. Head over now to have a look. Hope you find something you like.
As Is Shop link at right ——————————————————————–>

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