He Shall Have Music Wherever He Goes by David McMahon

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He Shall Have Music Wherever He Goes by 

This is Terry Sansom, a man whose face is well known in central Melbourne. Each day, with official permission, Terry drives his old ute (utility vehicle) into the city and – wait for it – manoeuvres his weather-beaten old piano off the tailgate, onto a makeshift ramp and finally onto the pavement.

Then he wheels the piano to a convenient spot in the mall and begins to play. His music reverberates around Bourke Street and those who pass by drop coins into his little yellow plastic bucket.

When I took this shot, in April 2009, it was a rainy, gusty cold autumn day. Yet he sat there, belting out honky-tonk, jazz, pop and just about every genre you could think of. He told me he was about to head up north, to warmer climes – with his piano.

See his “tux”? Look closely at it. You see, it’s actually an old black T-shirt on which he has painted lapels, a bow tie, a collar and a pocket kerchief. At the end of our conversation, I asked him where he lived. “Wherever I park the ute, mate,” he replied simply.

I do not crop, enhance or post-edit my images in any way. Shot with a Pentax K100D, using a Sigma 18-125mm lens. F6.7, 1/30sec, ISO 400, focal length 50mm.

Featured in 50+, January 2011.


Walkley Award-nominated journalist, novelist and wedding photographer at davidmcmahonweddings.com

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  • CapturedByKylie
    CapturedByKyliealmost 4 years ago

    What a charming chap. I bet he has enough yarns to tell to last a life time!

  • His is an amazing story, Kylie. Next time I see him, I’ll make sure I have a video camera with me.

    – David McMahon

  • pix-elation
    pix-elationalmost 4 years ago

    Wonderful character. Just had a look on You Tube and yes he’s there! I wonder if he knows that his music also goes to the other side of the globe?

  • Yes, he did know about the YouTube clips. Actually you’ve reminded me of a story he told me – that I must add to this shortly!

    – David McMahon

  • Ray Wells
    Ray Wellsalmost 4 years ago

    looks like a kool old dude.great shot

  • He was great to talk to, Ray – and he was booked to play at a 60th birthday party the next day.

    – David McMahon

  • dedmanshootn
    dedmanshootnalmost 4 years ago

    fine portrait and interesting backstory

  • So glad you liked the story. It was a tough portrait to shoot, because I wanted his hat, his “tux”, while he played. So he wasn’t posing and I just had to make best use of the conditions as the rain poured down!

    – David McMahon

  • dedmanshootn
    dedmanshootnalmost 4 years ago

    that’s the type shooting and portraits i tend to like best. relaxed people make much better photos i think

  • You are 100 per cent correct. When I shoot weddings I make it a point to ensure that “formal” poses do not intrude on the natural shots – as far as possible.

    – David McMahon

  • Evelyn Bach
    Evelyn Bachalmost 4 years ago

    Nice one, David. The story really puts it into a larger context. I love to hear such tales of different ways of living life.

  • Thanks, Evelyn – he was actually continuing to play while I shot this. So glad you liked his story.

    – David McMahon

  • Sandra Moore
    Sandra Moorealmost 4 years ago

    wonderful portrait capture David, great info on the gentleman!

  • Thank you, Sandra – he was very matter-of-fact about his circumstances and was not seeking sympathy at all. But I thought it was a great human interest story. I’m so glad you like it.

    – David McMahon

  • Lynn  Gibbons
    Lynn Gibbonsalmost 4 years ago

    Great shot

  • Thank you, Lynn – he was fascinating to talk to. And all the time during our conversation, he just kept playing that piano ….

    – David McMahon

  • TonyCrehan
    TonyCrehanalmost 4 years ago

    Great candid portrait David. I like the title too. Tony

  • Many thanks, Tony – he was still playing when I shot this. So glad you like the title.

    – David McMahon

  • Carla Jensen
    Carla Jensenalmost 4 years ago

    What a Magnificent Portrait of this Music Man…David!!! Love his home made tux and hat!! I think you have captured him perfectly …you can see in his face how much he loves playing music and I can just image the story’s he could tell as well! Exceptional work, my friend!! WTG =D

  • Many thanks, Carla – as I said to someone else, the next time I see him, I’ll take a video camera as well.

    – David McMahon

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