The image takes place in a subway train full of people. A man wearing a suit and jacket stands in the middle of the subway aisle. He plays the accordion and looks to be singing. His eyes are half closed. He has an enamel cup tied on a string hanging from the instrument. The people sitting in the seats are mostly Caucasian men wearing coats and hats. On the left side of the image, two men from different depths field are looking toward the camera. On the right side of the image, one man in close depth of field sits reading the paper. Although the subway is packed, no one appears to be looking at the accordion player.
The one point perspective of the camera in line with the subject emphasises the subway space. The accordion with a cup hanging off it with string is in focus that emphasises its shape and folded texture. This folded texture is repeated by the seated man holding an open newspaper. Like the accordion, the newspaper is more in focus as these objects lie on the same plane. The faces of both men are out of focus and their eyes are lidded, each absorbed in their own worlds.
The photographer captures a scene of isolation even though the subject is singing and playing the accordion on a full subway. The player’s eyes are closed, his head tilted slightly back, and he appears lost in his song. The fact that he is wearing a suit and jacket seems in contrast to the begging cup hanging off his accordion, and suggests an act of desperation. The theme of seclusion is emphasized by the man reading a newspaper, his head and eyes cast downward, apparently absorbed in the news of the day. Perhaps the accordion player’s song draws the other subway passengers into their own worlds, but the overall tone of the photograph depicts a scene of social disengagement.