Closing Exhibition at Salt Institute

From April 4 to May 2 my photo exhibition, "The Battle We Didn't Choose: My Wife's Fight With Breast Cancer," was on display at The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, in Portland, Maine.

The day before the closing event my brother Frank and I made the 12 hour drive from Cleveland, Ohio, to Portland. We faced a bit of rain but the sun ultimately made it's way through the clouds...Sunshine and The Clash helped the miles to pass.

The next morning we woke up rested and ready to explore Portland. After eating a delicious breakfast at Hot Suppa we headed out to see the coast. Waves were crashing, catapulting over rocks, reminding me of Mother Nature's great strength. Humbling indeed.

As we prepared to go to the gallery I thought about seeing these photographs hanging on the wall, the life Jen and I had together, and the emotions that would surely pour out of me. It still feels unreal that all of this even happened, that Jen isn't physically here any more...that I can't hold her. Sure enough, the minute I walked into the gallery I felt that feeling in my stomach - the reality that Jen passed.

Since Jen's death I've been blessed in many ways. People have responded to our story with incredible kindness and Jen's legacy is growing into something beautiful, something that is inspiring people all over the world to embrace life. These are two of the biggest reasons why today I am not a complete mess. 

As I watched people looking at our life I wondered what they were feeling. My hope is that people see beyond cancer and death; that after seeing our story they will hold their loved ones closer. I hope people will see the beauty in life, the simple things that make difficult moments bearable. I hope more than anything that people will see that these photographs are about love and life, about following your dreams and never letting matter how hard life gets.  


Limited Edition Print

I've received an invitation to exhibit our story at The Salt Institute For Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. The exhibition will run from March 28 - May 2. I am honored by this opportunity.

To raise funds to cover my expenses I am selling this print in a limited edition of 50. The print size is 11"x14" and the cost is $135 plus shipping and handling. To purchase a print click HERE

After the final expenses are recorded all remaining money will be donated to The Love You Share, a non-profit organization I am starting that will assist women receiving treatment for breast cancer.

Due to costs I can only ship in The United States. Please allow 4-6 weeks for printing and shipping. 

Akron Art Museum

I've just received confirmation that these photographs of Jennifer have been added to the permanent collection of The Akron Art Museum. This is an honor I have never dreamed of and I cannot begin to explain the feelings in my heart. I miss Jennifer with every bit of my soul. 

All of my thanks to Arnold Tunstall for his work in getting my photographs into this collection. 



On July 3rd, 2013, I received an email from Brandon Crouch, the Project and Event Manager for Utah State University's Office of Research and Graduate Studies. In his email, Brandon asked if I was interested in speaking at the annual TEDxUSU conference to be held on November 5th, 2013.
In short, my answer was...YESSSSS!!!

The theme for TEDxUSU 2013 was survive. In my excitement to accept the invitation I hadn't given much thought to what it would take to create an 18 minute presentation about something I have been doing my whole life. When I first sat down to work on my talk I ended up looking at the computer screen for about 30 minutes before thinking, and not for the last time, "Can I do this?" 

Over the next four months working on this presentation became my job. Every time something popped into my head, which was usually when I was in the shower, driving or just about to fall asleep, I would pull out my iPhone and start recording my thoughts. I looked over my photographs again and again, searching for the right match for my words. Walking around my apartment, I practiced delivering my presentation to an imaginary crowd, aka my cats. My upstairs neighbor probably knows this presentation better than anyone, save myself. 

After a few weeks something started to happen, something that had never been part of my plan. As I pushed further and further into my soul I began to accept my own mortality. One day I will die. This is a fact. I'm not saying that I am not afraid of death. What I mean is that by accepting my own mortality I have embraced that today, this very moment, I am alive.

On November 3rd I boarded a plane for Utah. I gave my presentation a run through in my mind then settled in with some music and caught up on photo editing. After a short layover in Houston (and a pretty good taco) we came out of the clouds in Salt Lake City just as the sun was setting on the Rocky Mountains. Hello Mother Nature. 

I headed to the Budget rental counter to pick up my wheels and was met with a nice surprise. Instead of rolling into town in a Ford Focus, I was upgraded to a Chrysler 300 - Wow! I know my 5-speed, 4 cylinder Subaru is going to do well in the Cleveland snow, but this thing MOVED!!! I'd be lying if I said the thought of skipping my flight home and driving across the country didn't pop into my head.

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Once I figured out how to start this keyless haus I headed to Logan, home of Utah State University, where I had dinner with an old friend, Andrew McCalister. Andrew and his wife Laura welcomed me into their home for dinner with some of their friends. Beautiful sunset, rental car upgrade, home cooked meal and great to a good start.

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The next morning I woke up early to go for a walk. The fall colors were still hanging around and the mountain air was cool and crisp.

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Next stop, Utah State University, where I met Holly Reynoso. After seeing my photographs on the Internet Holly nominated me to speak at TEDxUSU. I'm still humbled that Holly's act of kindness led to this incredible experience. We headed to the Photo Department where I talked with students about making and sharing photographs of something so personal. The students were very attentive and respectful and I was honored that they wanted to hear our story.  

(Group photo by Carsten Meier)

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Angelo Merendino TEDxUSU (10 of 33).jpg

From here we went to the performance hall for a run through of the show. Not surprising, the crew was incredible! The answer to every question was, "We'll make it work." Inspiring. I couldn't believe I was on the same stage with such brilliant people. I was tingling all over.

After months of emails Brandon and I finally met face to face - this guy is a gem. 

I have a tendency to be a night owl so I did my best to get a good night's sleep the night before the presentation (the two hour time difference helped). I woke up well rested and refreshed and headed to Angie's, a local restaurant where "The locals eat." The owner, Saboor Sahely, moved to Logan from Afghanistan 35 years ago to study at the University. For over 25 years Saboor has hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner for the community. Last year the restaurant served nearly 1,000 people. That's a good man in my book.

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Angelo Merendino TEDxUSU (17 of 33).jpg

I finished my breakfast and headed to the auditorium. I pulled into the parking lot and took a few minutes to gather my thoughts. Months of writing, rewriting, and practicing were about to come to a point. I felt the bittersweet tear of love and pain. Everything Jen and I had been through came flooding back. 

I was scheduled to speak last and did my best to stay calm while I watched everyone else passionately share their thoughts. 

Just before my turn I took a deep breath and remembered the promise I made to Jen before she passed, that the world would know who she was. 
I walked to the center of the stage, took a deep breath, and the next thing I remember is seeing the audience start to stand up and applaud. I still can't get over this...

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To Everyone at Utah State University: You have helped me to heal. Your kindness, commitment and willingness to go the extra step inspires me to do the same in my life.

Thank you.

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Here is a portrait slide show of many of the people who made this possible. (My apology to anyone whose portrait I didn't make)

Those eyes...

Over the last few days I've found myself thinking about Jen in a different way. I think at times everything that is happening with our story forms a protective shield around me, a type of barrier. Some times reality gets through and it stops me in my tracks. Last night I thought about the look Jen used to give me when she wanted to melt my heart...this look. I miss Jen's big brown eyes. 

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Honoring our Loved ones

Hey Everyone,
I need your help. I'd like to set up a page on my website to honor and remember our loved ones who have passed because of breast cancer. If you would like to be a part of this please send a photograph of your loved one to: and I will add it to the page. 


- Include "Loved Ones Photograph" in the subject.
- Please be sure that the file is set to 72 dpi and is no bigger than 500K.
- I will be accepting photographs from today, 11/9, through next Saturday, 11/18. 
- After 11/18 I will begin to upload photographs to the page and will post a link.
- As we all know, once photographs are on the Internet anyone can access them. Once you send a photo you are acknowledging that it will be posted on my website.



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Embracing life

When I made this photograph Jen had been using a walker for about 3 months, her legs were getting weaker as the cancer spread. We were on vacation by the ocean and Jen wanted to feel the water...not just rolling over her feet but the waves hitting her body. Jen didn't let cancer stop her from living and loving. She embraced life.  


Dragon boat

After her mastectomy in 2008 Jennifer was diagnosed with Lymphedema. Jen heard about dragon boat racing from my sister-in-law and found out that this was great exercise to combat her condition. So, Jen co-founded a dragon boat team consisting of all women cancer survivors. 

 Jen always looked for the good in even the darkest of times.

Best friend

Before I met Jen I didn't believe in myself and I was struggling to figure out my purpose in life. Jen changed all of this...she encouraged me to follow my dreams and to trust my gut. Jen believed in me, even when I didn't. We were best friends and Jen taught me so much about life, Love, and happiness. 

I still remember the way the air felt when I made this photograph. 

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My dad is a 20 year lung cancer survivor. And he's a joker. At my parent's 60th wedding anniversary he told Jen to get her wigs and they posed for this portrait. He wore the wig so well that my mom, who was standing about 40 feet away told one of my sisters, "I'm not sure who that woman is over there but she keeps smiling at me." 

Laughter, indeed, is a wonderful medicine. 

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Let go...

The summer before Jen died we vacationed on Topsail Island with her family. Jen relied on a walker or a cane for the prior 3 months, as her legs were getting weaker. Jennifer loved being in the ocean and she was sad at the thought of not being strong enough to swim on her own. For the first few days of our trip Jen would sit by the edge of the ocean and the waves would roll in over her feet. Near the middle of the week Jen decided she would go in the ocean if her sister Laura and I held her hands. I’ll never forget the sound of Jen’s voice when she said, “Let go.”

I hid my tears of joy behind my camera and watched Jen floating in the ocean, overcoming her fears and not letting cancer keep her from living life. 


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