The photographers featured throughout Dan Wechsler’s More Than the Rainbow are a pretty scruffy, competitive bunch, sometimes supportive of one another, but often critical too—and not just of the film’s main subject, New York City street photog Matt Weber. Julio Mitchell, for instance, says he doesn’t find most of Cartier-Bresson’s moments decisive—just trivial. “Maybe that’s why he’s so popular,” he sniffs. Their jostling opinions make for some interesting exchanges, as a handful of photographers, plus a few critics and other tastemakers, talk about things like the merits of film versus digital and the importance of finding one’s voice. Most people are interviewed one-on-one by the filmmaker, but segments are edited deftly together to make the film feel like a good conversation, moving seamlessly from one topic to the next with the unselfconscious ease of a good dinner party.
There are also some pithy tangential observations, like when Weber says, “Seems like every street photographer at first loves steam,” or Ralph Gibson says, “In the last hour, in the world, probably more digital images have been made than in the entire history of analog photography.” Meanwhile, we see many of Weber’s photos, learn a bit about his past, and watch him go to work while classic jazz by Thelonius Monk or Keith Gurland plays in the background. The film camera often mirrors Weber’s still one, gliding close to the ground behind him as he hunts for a shot, as if to get the same view as the camera hanging around his neck, or shooting just what he’s shooting, ending with a freeze frame that then turns black and white and morphs into one of his photos. And when Weber starts to experiment with shooting in color and talks about how some things look better that way, the filmmakers prove his point by showing us a shot he took at Yankee Stadium, first in subdued black and white and then in lively color, which does a much better job of conveying the ballpark’s energy. It’s an effective way to use moving pictures to demonstrate something fundamental about still photography, and it’s typical of how this thoughtful movie uses one man’s story to explore the medium in which he works.