Photo Essay by Angelo Merendino, Professional Photographer and AYV Awards Judge

Each year, Adobe Youth Voices hosts the AYV Awards, a global competition that recognizes young people from all walks of life for their extraordinary projects created to change our world for the better. Together, we’re inviting you and our international panel of judges to help us to determine the 21 winners.

All month long, we’re sharing photos, videos, and blog posts from our AYV Awards judges that provide a sneak peek into the life of a creative professional. Today, we kick the series off with photographer and AYV Awards Photo Essay Judge, Angelo Merendino. You’ve likely seen Angelo’s work before – his photo-documentary, The Battle We Didn’t Choose – My Wife’s Fight With Breast Cancer, provides a look inside the day-to-day life of a young couple facing breast cancer together. In the blog post below, Angelo shares his hopes and dreams for the work he has created – to help people follow their dreams and never let go.

Today, students around the world are raising awareness for issues that matter to them. You can help them pursue their dreams by casting your vote for your favorite AYV finalists from now until May 30 (up to once each day).

This blog post was originally shared on Angelo’s personal blog on May 9, 2014. Our thanks to Angelo for allowing us to repost it here.

Patricia Cogley is senior program manager, Adobe Youth Voices.

Closing Exhibition at The Salt Institute

By Angelo Merendino

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 its 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.

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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 go…no matter how hard life gets.