Matt Weber has been a New Yorker his whole life, and a cab driver almost as long. In the 1970s, he began photographing the city, and his impulse to observe seems intrinsic.
In the new documentary More Than the Rainbow, director Dan Wechsler interrogates Weber’s original impulse, asking what moves and excites him, and how he still finds novel images on the same streets whose scenes he’s been crystallizing for decades. Though Weber no longer hides his lens inside the anonymity of a taxi, where he used to take pictures while on the job, neither does he invite scrutiny.
A heavy, bearded man in loose T-shirts and a Yankees cap, Weber always wears dark colors and practical shoes. His studio is New York City and it’s to his advantage to blend in. At first he does so too well, spouting conventional voiceover observations bemoaning how gentrification has made New York more “plastic,” more “boring,” but it’s clear that Weber is after what’s intimate and detailed — and he finds it.
Weber delights in capturing the shocked face of an old woman leaning on her cane as she spots two young, mohawked punks having sex on the hood of a car in broad daylight, and in explicating the nuances of hostile facial expressions from Coney Island beachgoers who react poorly to having their pictures taken.
On treks through the city, camera in hand, Weber’s expertise, tenderness, and taste for the absurd become clear. Wechsler runs with it, interspersing decades of Weber’s often gritty photographs with expert cinematography that lingers on New York’s curved railings and blurring lights in a way that feels suffused with nostalgia, even for the present. This sentiment is echoed in interviews with other photographers, people so secure in the necessity of their art that they’re willing to put themselves in dangerous situations or forswear long-term relationships for it. They make it clear that endless curiosity is a worthwhile and sustaining constant.