Pain Relief p. 46

By: ROBERT J. SALGADO NEWSPAPER PHOTOGRAPHERS STILL develop back problems from carrying camera bags, but these days it's the television people who face a real health hazard, according to the National Press Photographers Association.
Photographers of all sorts suffer from aching backs, and many worry about aggravating existing conditions, even though it's been a long time since photographers lugged 4-by-5-inch Speed Graphics in hard cases and walked with a list ? even without the camera case.
Zoom lenses and built-in motor drives for 35-millimeter cameras have helped reduce the bulk and weight photographers have to carry on their shoulders.
Charles Curtis, Duluth (Minn.) News-Tribune staff photographer, said he hurt his back in a childhood fall, and years of carrying a camera bag slung on his shoulder has aggravated the condition.
"I told the company about my bad back and they bought me a Domke jacket," he said. "I'm the envy of the other photographers."
Curtis uses a camera bag to carry equipment to his car. But on an assignment, he carries lenses, film and other stuff spread around in the pockets of the jacket and another jacket that he bought from Kodak for $100.
"It's a lot better than carrying 20 pounds on one shoulder," he explained.
The last time the National Press Photographers Association's News Photographer magazine looked into back problems among newspaper photographers was in a 1986 story by Chris Germann, then identified as a student at Ohio University. The article cited various health problems photographers attributed to carrying heavy camera bags. Besides the usual neck, back and shoulder problems, kidney cancer was cited.
Since then, NPPA turned its attention to TV cameramen and women, who are also represented in NPPA and whose equipment is usually heavier and more cumbersome than what most newspaper photographers carry.
Among those quoted in the 1986 article was Cary Tolman, now retired from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
"I stopped hurting when I retired," Tolman, who has lost a kidney to cancer, said in an interview recently. He cautioned that he was not at all sure his health problems were job related.
His suspicion is based on the former habit of slinging his camera bag across his body from left shoulder to right side, were it rode over his right kidney. The arrangement allowed him to run while on assignment without the bag slipping off his shoulder ? and he workd that way for years.
Another photographer quoted a decade ago, Cliff Schiappa of the Associated Press, complained of pain in the lower neck and hip and attributed the discomfort to his daily burden: a bag of cameras and lenses.
Schiappa told E&P the problems have gone away as he and his colleagues moved away from bags full of camera bodies and lenses to fewer lenses, thanks to zoom lenses, carried in special vests and fanny packs.
Now that he uses a digital camera, he is able to work without a second camera body. He leaves a backup film camera in the car.
"We were not carrying things properly," Schiappa said of his earlier troubles. "I changed my habits." He said that physical exercise helps ward off muscle pain.
Jean Dixon, a staff photographer for the Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal, was also interviewed 10 years ago, when she said her right shoulder was two inches lower than her left.
She said recently that she had suffered no long-term effects since she started alternating shoulders, exercising and using a fanny pack around her waist.
Jeff Larsen, a staff photographer and assignment editor for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, said it was hard to say for sure whether his back problems stemmed from his work, although he did slip and fall on a job once. After three back surgeries, he has found that a daily, four-mile walk has made him less susceptible to back pain.
Minilabs, scanners and Photoshop have eliminated an area of great potential hazards for photographers ? the darkroom. Although the need for ventilation of the noxious fumes from photographic chemicals has long been known, photographers were not so cautious with their hands.
It was a point of honor with many of them to move prints between chemical baths with their fingers, instead of tongs, after massaging a picture's highlights with a little undiluted developer. It was said you could always spot a photographer by the brownish fingernails.
?("I told the company about my bad back and they bought me a Domke jacket. I'm the envy of the other photographers.") [Caption]
?(? Charles Curtis, Duluth (Minn.) News-Tribune staff photographer) [Photo & Caption]
?(Salgado, a former newspaper photographer and editor, is a freelancer based in New Hope, Pa.) [Caption]
Editor & Publisher n June 15, 1996


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