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snap! the breaking spine

Osteoporosis is a silent and growing epidemic. An insidious and often painless disease; all too often, osteoporosis first reveals itself with a wrist, spinal or hip fracture. In the case of a spinal fracture, it is often followed by a second, and a third... a cascade of fractures that casts a shadow over individual lives, affecting millions of people around the world.

This photographic essay puts a spotlight on the under-recognized problem of spinal osteoporosis. The photographs provide an intimate look at daily life and reveal the impact of spinal fractures on the lives of six courageous men and women in five different countries. The majority must cope with chronic pain, physical restrictions, isolation, and depression at great cost to their quality of life.

Although diverse, these stories reveal common experiences - experiences shared by people with osteoporosis across the globe regardless of culture, gender, age and socio economic standing. Recurring themes include difficulty in obtaining a diagnosis, physical restrictions and the resulting need to accept help from family, friends and strangers in order to carry out simple daily tasks. There is great frustration at not being able to work or enjoy hobbies as in the past as well as continuous fear of fracture. There is also the collective desire to raise awareness of the disease so that others may be spared similar fates, with several of the patients generously sharing their knowledge and devoting their time to osteoporosis education and patient groups.

IOF extends its sincere thanks to the six individuals who were willing to open their homes and share a day in their lives with IOF photographer Gilberto Domingues Lontro and the world at large. We also thank the representatives of the local patient societies who kindly volunteered their assistance and helped liaise with the patients.

snap! the breaking spine appears as a book, an online photo essay, as well as a photographic exhibition to be shown in various cities around the world, including Brussels and Toronto on the occasion of World Osteoporosis Day 2010.

Our hope is that this photographic essay will sensitize viewers to the impact of osteoporotic vertebral fractures and raise awareness of osteoporosis and the urgent need for prevention and treatment in all regions of the world.


the project

The idea for snap! the breaking spine was developed by IOF photographer and multimedia specialist Gilberto Domingues Lontro. Gilberto studied Communications and Multimedia at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. He has worked in Canada, Portugal and now Switzerland, within a range of private production companies, television, newspaper, and radio, as well as in the non-profit sector.

Six people living with spinal osteoporosis from five regions of the world were invited to participate in the project. With the help of local IOF member societies, Gilberto spent a day with each person, photographing them in their homes as they went about their day-to-day routines. Over a two week period, travelling from Switzerland to Jordan, India, Canada, and Brasil, he was able to capture very personal portrayals of life with osteoporosis and spinal fractures.

©2013 International Osteoporosis Foundation