A very personal photo essay

January 01, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Photojournalist Angelo Merendino documented his wife Jennifer's battle with cancer in this essay. (http://www.viralnova.com/wifes-cancer)

We deal with cancer, and death, differently. When faced with similar circumstances, I gave it thought, but was unable to photograph my father's battle with cancer. The few images I took were of moments I wanted to remember, to make sure I had photos of my dad to last the ages, to share with the grandchildren he'd never meet, to have photos to look to when I needed to have him near.

Personally, I felt awkward photographing my father during his illness. Though unspoken, there seemed to be an understanding that I was taking photographs because I knew he wouldn't be around much longer. He allowed it and I didn't raise the camera very often. I mostly wanted to enjoy every minute I had left with him, knowing time was slipping away with each setting sun. I do, however, have a great appreciation for these photos.

Today, January 1st, is the anniversary of my father's passing. I wish had just one more day with him, and mom, too; one day that they could hold my son, their grandson, and have dinner with my wife and the kids. I wish had taken more photos, too. 

Photography, especially photojournalism is personal and must be done so with respect; for your subject, and secondly, for you as the photographer. I'm quite certain Angelo and Jennifer agreed to the photographs in the essay mutually. It may be hard to understand, but subjects of photographs like these, even in the most difficult of moments, often want the photos to be taken. Sometimes, they see the process as healing. They see value in telling their story. They sometimes request the work continue...until finished. It was for Jennifer and Angelo to decide, not the rest of us.

Angelo told his wife's story. Completely. From start to finish. It's for the rest of us to decide if we want to take in what they wished to share. For me, these images tell the story of a woman who lost her battle with cancer, but more than that, the images serve as a distinct reminder to cherish those we love. Even when we think we're giving enough, there's nearly always room for improvement.

Sharing experiences and growing as human beings are a valuable part of the process of life. Without communication, love and growth from those around us, even strangers, what is our time here really about? I'm sad for Angelo that he had to experience Jennifer's illness and her passing, but I'm glad he shared the photos with us. Obviously, Jennifer wanted to share her story. The least I can do is take a few moments to listen. 


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