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Picture This: Angelo Merendino documents his wife's battle with cancer

Angelo Merendino
Angelo Merendino
Jen and my dad, an 18 year lung cancer survivor, with wigs on at the party.
Angelo Merendino
Angelo Merendino
Women from Jennifer's breast cancer support group hold and kiss Jennifer. A few days earlier we were told that Jennifer's liver was failing and she only had days to live.
Angelo Merendino
Just happy to be with each other, Jen and I make the most of another hospital stay.
Angelo Merendino
Angelo Merendino
Angelo Merendino

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For our occasional series, Picture This, we've talked with photographers who've been in war zones or far off lands. But our next installment is far more personal.

Angelo Merendino's wife Jennifer had a long and tough fight with breast cancer, and he used his camera to share his wife struggles with family and friends. He had no idea how they would impact the world. 

He joined us to describe how and why he created these powerful images. 

Interview Highlights:

On the day his wife, Jennifer, was first diagnosed:
"Jen was diagnosed in 2008, it was five months after our wedding. We were living in Manhattan, and I was back in Ohio, visiting my family. We both grew up in Akron, Ohio. Jen went in to see her general practitioner and the doctor felt something that she was not comfortable with and told Jen that she should have a mammogram immediately. Jen called me, I was coming home the next day, but she was really upset and she felt that this was different than other scares she had had in the past.

"The last thing I thought was that she would have breast cancer. A few days later Jen had a mammogram and Jen called me and I remember the sound of her voice, I remember her saying "I have breast cancer." I was numb immediately and I really still am. Life has been very different since then. Probably the last thing that I expected to hear from Jennifer, especially at that point in our marriage."

On the idea to photograph Jennifer's experience:
"The photographs really didn't start until 2010. I always photograph Jennifer, but after her initial diagnosis, our family and friends were really incredible and came to see us when Jen was up for it, and they sent cards and flowers and dinner and had fundraisers and it was really amazing to have that kind of support. But when Jen's cancer metastisized in April of 2010, and we started treatment again, we noticed that most people didn't understand how serious Jen's illness had become…That's when I started making photographs and it was more about survival than it was anything else. There was no intention to show this to a large audience. It was just for family and friends to say to them, Look this is what's really going on."

On how he decided what photos to put on the blog:
"I didn't really have any kind of process, it was much more of this is how I feel right now. Even when I was making the photographs I didn't want to think, I just wanted to make a photograph when I felt something in my gut, so, I've tried my best to not make this a thought process, really, and to just be as honest and open as I possibly can be." 

On photographing the people around her:
"In May of 2011, Jen was hospitalized. We were in the hospital for about two weeks, and when we came home, Jen had to use a walker because the cancer had spread to her hip and she was having difficulty walking. She used that walker for the rest of her life and we would go for daily walks. It was part exercise for Jen, part to get her out of the apartment, and a time for us to just be a young couple going for a walk. We live near central park and it was our daily thing. When we would go out to walk I would immediately notice that people would stare, and it didn't seem like it was malicious or any bad intention, but it was a reminder to us that Jennifer was sick."