Every since Helen Liggett referred to a quote regarding Lee Friedlander’s “excess of fact” I’ve been trying to chase it down. It really bugs me when people don’t follow up on their sources. The trail on this one is long and silly. It starts here (approximately), in this passage from Liggett:
Street photography is a procedure that connects daily life to representation and
thus it is characterized by what photographer Lee Friedlander calls an “excess of fact.” “It’s a generous medium, photography,” he writes (Armstrong 2005,293). In part this is a description of the type of photography he produces. But it is also an acknowledgement of how crowded the referent in un-staged photography necessarily is. Photographic space is more complex than a photographer’s interest in a single object or viewers’ tendency to think of images as being about a single subject. The complexity of any site generates a photographic space that leads to the proliferation of meaning in much the same way that urban life is not fixed, but constantly in motion. The visual
cacophony produced by street photography evokes a radical urban aesthetics by pointing to the gap between the work and an audience’s reading of it. What is radical about the excess of fact is that a space is both presented and unfinished.
The Armstrong article is an Artforum review of Lee Friedlander’s 2005 exhibition at MOMA. I drove to Minneapolis and picked that up. It lists the source of its quote as an interview with Friedlander by Peter Galassi in the exhibition catalogue. That massive tome was checked out, so I recalled it. I picked it up yesterday. It cites the source of the direct quote as an article called “excess of fact” in Friedlander’s monograph The Desert Seen. Did Friedlander even utter the phrase? I’m beginning to have my doubts. The University library doesn’t seem to have that monograph; I’ve requested it via interlibrary loan. So close, and yet so far!