My Story

Hi, I'm Matthew!

Hello, I'm Matthew Cicanese. My life is a testament to turning adversity into strength. As a child, I faced daunting challenges, but these very challenges have sculpted me into who I am today: a DEI speaker, transformative mentor, and a passionate advocate for neurodiversity and accessible technology.

My journey is one of resilience, discovery, and transformation, reflecting my dedication to helping others embrace their uniqueness and potential.

Early Life

Overcoming Adversity

Surviving meningitis as an infant marked the beginning of my life's unique challenges. This battle resulted in hearing loss, vision impairment, and cognitive reset, but more importantly, it instilled in me an unyielding resilience. These early trials shaped my perspective on life, teaching me the value of perseverance and adaptability.

My childhood wasn't just about coping with disabilities; it was about finding unique ways to engage with the world around me. Each obstacle I faced was a stepping stone, building the foundation for my future endeavors

Discovering Photography

A New Lens on Life

Discovering photography at the age of 14 was a turning point in my life. This newfound passion provided me with a powerful tool for expression and connection, transcending the sensory barriers I faced. Photography became my voice, a medium through which I could showcase my perspective of the world.

It was through this lens that I began to understand and appreciate the beauty in the details often overlooked by others. Each photograph I took was a celebration of resilience, a testament to finding light in the darkest of places

Embracing My Differences

A Unique Worldview on Navigating Neurodivergence

Living with ADHD, anxiety, audio processing disorder, and possible autism has gifted me a unique lens through which I view the world. These aspects of my neurodiversity have been both a challenge and a profound source of strength and creativity. They have taught me to navigate life in ways that others might not consider, opening doors to new perspectives and solutions.

My journey of self-discovery and acceptance of my neurodivergence has been a path of empowerment, allowing me to empathize deeply with others who face similar challenges. It is this understanding that I bring into my work, striving to create a world where neurodiversity is not just accepted but supported and championed.

The Intersect of Art and Science

Where Creativity & Curiosity Meld with Logic & Data

The moment I captured my first macro photograph - a ladybug amidst a sea of aphids - was more than just a click of the camera; it was a revelation. This image symbolized the intersection of my passions for art and science, a fusion that defined my deep interests in childhood and acted as a compass for my career path. Photography became my tool for storytelling, a way to explore and communicate complex concepts through visual narratives.

My love for the natural world, combined with my unique perspectives, allowed me to create stories that captivated the community, sparked curiosity, and fueled conversation. This blend of art and science has been the cornerstone of my approach, guiding me to explore and document the wonders of nature in a way that resonates with a diverse audience.

Image Courtesy of Beth Reynolds

Charting the Crossroads

Choosing the Path Less Traveled

At the end of my high school journey, I stood at a crossroads, contemplating my future as someone with sensory disabilities and a differently wired brain.

Embracing my neurodiversity, I pursued an undergraduate degree that combined my love for the environment with my passion for creativity and communication. This period was marked by deep self-exploration and a growing realization that my disabilities were not limitations, but unique lenses through which I viewed the world.

My decision to not follow a conventional path but instead forge my own was a defining moment. It led me to graduate studies where I pursued a Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts, a choice that allowed me to delve deeper into the intersection of art, science, and humanity.

Bridging Gaps through Storytelling

Connecting Community through Curiosity & Creativity

My journey in storytelling has been a voyage of bridging gaps – between different disciplines, perspectives, and communities. Through my camera and other storytelling mediums, I create stories that would otherwise go unheard.

My work has taken me to incredible places, from the National Geographic Society to various nature photography associations, where I've connected with people of diverse backgrounds.

These experiences have taught me the power of storytelling in conveying complex ideas and emotions, enabling me to reach and resonate with a broad audience. My narrative approach has been pivotal in my career, allowing me to share my unique insights and foster a deeper understanding of the world around us.

The Neuro-Nature Connection

Exploring the Environment through Empathy

My affinity for nature, coupled with my sensory experiences, has led me to form deep connections with the natural world. Capturing the minutiae of life through macro photography, I've highlighted the intricate beauty of overlooked species and ecosystems. These experiences have not only deepened my appreciation for biodiversity but have also served as metaphors for resilience and adaptation – themes that mirror my own life's journey.

My work has been a channel for raising awareness about environmental issues, using my art to advocate for conservation and sustainability. In sharing these stories, I aim to inspire a sense of wonder and responsibility towards our planet, fostering a connection between humanity and the natural world.

Image courtesy of Taylor Mickal

Inclusion & Innovation Empowerment

Programs and Pathways for Community Success

As a DEIA speaker, workshop facilitator, and transformative mentor, I am deeply committed to empowering others. My experiences have given me a unique perspective on inclusion, particularly in the realms of neurodiversity, disabilities, and accessible technology.

I emphasize the importance of creating environments where everyone, regardless of their abilities or background, can thrive and contribute.

My work in technology empowerment, especially in AI, is focused on developing intuitive and accessible tools that enhance learning and creativity. By blending innovative technology with inclusive practices, I strive to create spaces where diverse minds can collaborate and innovate, driving positive change in communities and industries.