Telling Stories Through Photographs

A portrait of artist Arabella Proffer by photographer Angelo Merendino 

Angelo Merendino is a popular freelance photographer in Cleveland, Ohio. The youngest of 11 children, Merendino had supportive parents who always encouraged him to pursue his interests.

I first met the photographer in 2021, when he photographed me for Cleveland Magazine. I recently asked him if he could tell me more about his career. We spoke via video. 

Merendino said that he has always been interested in the arts. As the youngest child in a large family, he remembers watching his siblings pursue their own careers. One night, for example, he saw his brother Sam, a drummer, perform with iconic singer Chubby Checker.

Merendino would later discover his passion for photography while working as a drummer in Nashville, Tennessee. A friend who owned a camera suggested he try photography.

“I remember the sound of the shutter for the first photo I made,” Merendino recalled. “I was hooked.” 

Merendino is now a freelance photographer who specializes in portraits. He sees photography as “a great conversation” between two people. His work has appeared in The New York Times and Scholastic Choices Magazine. He also has done photography for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Case Western Reserve University.

In addition to portraiture, Merendino does news photography. In 2018, he photographed former President Barack Obama at a campaign rally in Ohio for a local gubernatorial candidate. Over the years, Merendino has photographed hundreds of Cleveland residents, including me, for Cleveland Magazine’s annual “Most Interesting People” list. 


Merendino is known for intimate portraits like this one. 


Merendino’s first wife, Jennifer, died of cancer. His work showing the struggles that the couple endured went viral on social media. 

“We lived in New York at the time, and we found that people didn’t really understand what we were going through,” Merendino explained. “We were having a hard time expressing that and communicating with people. So I started making photographs.”

The portrait series, “My Wife’s Fight With Breast Cancer,” appears in the video “Jen and me, Ever After,” and has more than one million views on YouTube. Merendino’s TEDx Talk, “Photo Greater Than 1000: Angelo Merendino at TedxUSU,” has more than 100,000 views.


Merendino photographed Zain in November 2020 for Cleveland Magazine


When Merendino started out, he had no idea that his photos would resonate with so many people. “It’s been amazing that people have responded the way that they have,” he said. “It’s humbling.”

Portraiture remains Merendino’s favorite type of photography. He believes that trust is the cornerstone between the photographer and the person being photographed. He never refers to the people he photographs as subjects.

“It’s so cool to look through the lens, see how the light falls, and try to make a connection,” Merendino said. “I’m always excited to meet somebody and get to know somebody, to see if we have things in common. And then we can learn from each other.”  




Top photos courtesy of Angelo Merendino; bottom photo courtesy of the author