Playing for Life and Love

I heard him long before I saw him – the unmistakable sound of a saxophone, playing a popular tune. The playing was nuanced and well phrased. I was returning to Oxford Street after visiting the Photographers’ Gallery, and as I turned onto the main street, there he was.

Sprawled a little awkwardly on the pavement, propped against a shop front, eyes closed – lost in the music. Oxford Street is one of the busiest streets in central London and the pavement was crowded. Few people stopped to listen. I paused – there was a photo opportunity. I waited for a gap in the human traffic, and my eye was drawn to the sheet of paper propped up in the Saxophone case. It reads: ‘This is her chance to survive. I am doing this for my sick wife.’ And then there is a phrase in a foreign language – Spanish or Italian?, I wasn’t sure, but I was pretty certain that the first two words ‘La Vita’ meant ‘Life’. I took a number of images as he played on. Not once did he look up. I dropped a donation into the Saxophone case and moved on.

I’ve thought about him a lot since then. How many days has he occupied that space? How is his wife? Has the money raised by his music helped? Is she improving? So many unknowns.

I typed the phrase ‘La vita è una ruota’ into the computer and up popped the answer: ‘Life is a wheel’. Always turning. It conjures up so many thoughts.


About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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12 Responses to Playing for Life and Love

  1. paula graham says:

    Oh Bless, hope he gets enough to be able to make life more comfy for her.

  2. shoreacres says:

    This is so touching, and sad, and compelling as an image. As you say, it raises every sort of question. The saying about life being a wheel is so true. His appearance suggests he’s known better times; I hope his efforts bring better times again.

    • LensScaper says:

      it was a compelling sight, Linda. He was lost in his music, and the passers by seemed largely oblivious of his presence – a sad reflection on society.

  3. alan frost says:

    A telling image Andy and I found your words both thought provoking and moving.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Alan. Musicians busking for money are a common sight in London, on the underground and on the streets. They are often very capable musicians and I suspect many of them are doing it to supplement their income. This man was altogether different, busking for a noble cause, and playing beautifully. I would have loved to know his back story.

  4. oneowner says:

    This is a very powerful image, Andy. Nice work.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Ken. I had walked past this spot about an hour earlier on my way to the Photographers’ Gallery and he wasn’t there then, so it was quite by chance that when I reversed my steps he had started playing.

  5. rabirius says:

    Great image.
    I hope he will get enough money to save her.

  6. bluebrightly says:

    Brings back memories of so many people playing on the streets and in the subways of New York, where a sax was almost always my favorite instrument to hear. This is poignant – I’m glad you did your part when you joined his part of the wheel of life, if only for a brief moment.

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