Portrait courtesy of Erika Reiter.

Portrait courtesy of Erika Reiter.


Matthew Cicanese (Cheek-Ah-Nay-Zay) is an award-winning documentary artist, National Geographic Explorer, and Commercial Photographer based just outside of Washington DC, in Alexandria (VA). He hails from a small town in Central Florida called Dade City, just North of Tampa Bay. Matthew’s work has been featured globally in esteemed publications including Photo District News, BBC Earth, New Scientist, & as the cover of World Wildlife Magazine 2018 Fall Issue. You can find Matthew’s work many places, from the gallery wall to the classroom, where it inspires his audience to be more cognizant of the natural world.

Matthew’s documentary and editorial work examines the intersection of art, science, and the innate connections that humans hold with the natural world. Matthew’s work illuminates the life forms that exist in the periphery of humankind – yet hold critical significance to our planet. In 2015 Matthew was named a finalist for the Atkins CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year Awards for his work titled Portrait of Cladonia. An Associate Fellow with the iLCP (International League of Conservation Photographers), Matthew works with nonprofits & other entities around the world to produce engaging media for global audiences.

Matthew’s commercial work involves architecture, interior design, people, and products. Taking from his 14 years of natural history photography, Matthew utilizes his knowledge of light and design to produce images with lasting impact.

You can keep up with his latest work on Instagram (@MatthewCicanese)


2018 – Named an Associate Fellow of the iLCP (International League of Conservation Photographers)
2018 – Selected as one of PDN's 30 2018, new & emerging photographers to watch
2017 – Commended Image, Oasis Magazine Award, Oasis Photo Contest (Italy)
2016 – Semi-finalist, Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards
2016 – Finalist (disqualified from technicality), Sony World Photography Awards
2016 – Semi-finalist, BBC's Wildlife Photographer of the Year, rising star portfolio
2015 – Honorable Mention, International Photography Awards (non-professional portfolio)
2015 – Finalist, Environmental Photographer of the Year Awards
2014 – Second Place, Duke University's Mahato Memorial Photo & Image Contest
2014 – Semi-finalist, Russia’s International Golden Turtle Awards for Wildlife Photography

Gallery Exhibitions

2018 – Fresh Squeezed 2, Morean Arts Center (St. Petersburg, FL, USA)
2017 – Wanderlust, Light Grey Art Lab (Minneapolis, MN, USA)
2017 – Camouflage, Light Grey Art Lab (Minneapolis, MN, USA)
2016 – Botanica, Light Grey Art Lab (Minneapolis, MN, USA)
2015 – Environmental Photographer of the Year, Royal Geographical Society (London, UK)
2014 – Mahato Memorial Gallery, Duke University (Durham, NC, USA)
2013 – Home, Louise Jones Brown Gallery, Duke University (Durham, NC, USA)
2010 – Study Abroad Exhibition (Italy), Melvin Art Gallery, Florida Southern College (Lakeland, FL, USA)

select Clients, Partners, & Affiliates

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What gear do you shoot with?

The gear I shoot with really depends on each project and what calls for creating the best image. My primary setup is:

– Canon EOS R & 5Ds R
– Canon 100mm Macro f/2.8 L Lens
– Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x Macro Lens
– Canon RF 24-105mm f/4

How did you get involved with National Geographic?

I first got involved with National Geographic when I was an intern for the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative while attending Duke for my MFA, and then went on to apply for (and received) one of their explorer grants – which has led to my work in Iceland, Sri Lanka, and various other projects.

To learn more about National Geographic's grant program, click here.

I want to learn from you! Do you offer workshops?

Yes! To learn when they are, sign up for my mailing list at the bottom of the page.

Speaking engagements... How can I book you?

Click here to learn more and book me.

How can I get started in macro photography?

Many point-and-shoot cameras have a "macro mode" that will allow the standard lens to focus on closer subjects. That's a great way to get your feet wet with macro photography if you're just starting out. Another great way is to buy a close-up filter kit depending on the size of your lens filter. If you're feeling ambitious, get a reversing ring for your lens to use your lens backwards, and you'll be able to get super close without necessarily purchasing a dedicated macro lens. 

Which macro lens should I buy?

I've worked my way up to professional top-quality glass over a long period of time. The question of "which macro lens should I buy" is going to come down to a couple of basic factors... your goals, and your budget.

Start with your goals – what kind of macro subjects are you going to be photographing? If you're mostly shooting flowers and other non-animal subjects, then you can go with a shorter focal length (like 50mm or 65mm). If you're going to be shooting skiddish insects like dragonflies and butterflies, then looking into a 90mm or 120+mm lens may be a good option.

I mostly shoot with a 100mm length macro lens, and use my knowledge of animal behavior to determine how quickly/slowly to move in for the shot. In any case, I would always recommend renting before buying (or test out a friend's macro lens). If you feel safe about it, buying locally used (off of Craig's List or Facebook) is a great option as long as you know the gear is in good shape. 

What's your next project/expedition/workshop/book?

There's always a lot going on – whether a conference, fieldwork, or workshop! To get the inside scoop on the latest happenings with me, just sign up for my quarterly email at the bottom of this page!

I'm a college student / recent graduate... do you offer internships/mentorships?

At this time, I do not. If the opportunity for that arises I will create a dedicated page on my site, as well as make it known to those who subscribe to my email updates or follow me on social media. To subscribe for updates about this, sign up for my mailing list below.