Meet photographer Riccardo Marchegiani, Mkapa Awards 2021 top winner

Meet photographer Riccardo Marchegiani, Mkapa Awards 2021 top winner

Meet photographer Riccardo Marchegiani, Mkapa Awards 2021 top winner

By Nature's Best Photography | May 6, 2022

About the Author

Nature’s Best Photography, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, was founded to inspire, educate, and motivate a better understanding, appreciation, and conservation of the natural world through the art of photography, storytelling, and personal wellness initiatives.

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Born in Ancona, Italy, a small seaside town on the eastern coast, Marchegiani comes from a family with a long history in the countryside hamlets of Marche. Since his first trip to Africa when he was 10 years old, he has returned with his father Roberto, also an award-winning nature photographer, to experience many fascinating places on the continent, fueling his passion for art and the pursuit of natural beauty in our world. We interviewed him to learn more about his love of photography and conservation in Africa.

What inspired you to pursue nature photography? How did you develop a connection with nature in Africa?

I have always been fascinated by wilderness and nature. Growing up in the modern city of Ancona, we didn’t have many parks, but I was lucky enough to travel worldwide. Ever since I was very young, I have discovered new biomes and visited incredible landscapes that inspired me to develop my passion. Africa, in particular, has the most intense and authentic wilderness I have ever seen, much is completely untouched by humans. I have traveled there often to discover more about the fascinating cultures and experience the unique, wild scenarios.

What is your favorite subject to photograph in Africa and why?

My favorite subjects are animals in their habitats because of the incredible landscapes and the wide variety of species you find all across the African continent. The amazing sunsets and sunrises are short and intense and create an incredible atmosphere for photography.

What has been your most memorable African wildlife encounter so far?

I’ve seen many exciting wildlife scenes both above ground and underwater. One of the most memorable was when a pair of lions fought a large group of hyenas over an animal carcass in the Kenyan savanna. There was also a time when a seemingly infinite number of jackfishes surrounded me while I was scuba diving in Egypt’s Red Sea. But it was truly thrilling when a large colony of gelada monkeys crossed towards me across the immense grass fields of the Simien mountains peaks in Ethiopia. The enormous diversity of wildlife makes it very difficult to choose a favorite.

Mkapa Awards Grand Prize Winner Riccardo Marchegiani

What motivates you to get outside to photograph nature?

I am motivated by my desire to produce something beautiful to show others, to express my creativity, and to portray my vision of the world. I am excited when on the “hunt” to catch a special moment. Every morning spent sleeping is time wasted when I’m on a photo trip.

What do you find to be the most challenging situations as a nature photographer?

Sometimes the challenge is to just wait for hours; other times it is to wake up ridiculously early in the morning, and often one must walk for hours with your gear to reach remote places. Photographing outdoors requires a lot of dedication. You need to be ready at all times and adapt to circumstances that may arise. Also, when traveling to see nature, your accommodations may not be the most comfortable.

What professional photographers have influenced your work?

There is not one single answer; many great artists have inspired me. Watching thousands of photos that win competitions, those published in photography books, or others displayed in museums educated me and changed how I conceive this art. One of my favorite nature photographers is Cristobal Serrano; he has always amazed me, and I find every published photo of his to be remarkable.

Do your friends and family support your career path? What is it like working with your father?

Both my family and friends are proud of my photography. My dad especially has helped me discover this path and he constantly encourages me; it is very nice working with him as he is so enthusiastic about photography and wilderness.

What are your plans and goals in the world of photography and conservation education?

When I have enough material, my goals are to host photo expositions, print photography books, and share my vision and conservation messages.

How did you learn about the Mkapa Awards and Nature’s Best Photography?

I discovered Nature’s Best in 2017 when I first entered the world of photo contests as a youth. Nature’s Best Awards are one of the most renowned programs globally. They bring contests such as the Mkapa Awards with a panel of impressive judges who are experts in their fields, a high level of competitors, and wonderful prizes.


A post shared by Joy Of Light (@joyoflight_)

Did you know your winning shot was a special photo as soon as it was captured?

Yes, I knew even before there was a photo to take that it was a special situation. I set up the frame beforehand, and I sat waiting for the scene I pictured in my mind to happen. With luck, the gelada monkey positioned itself where I had hoped, giving me the shot I wanted. I tried this approach several times and most didn’t work, but in the end, my planning, patience, and efforts paid off.

What advice would you give to aspiring nature photographers?

First, it is necessary to build your artistic aesthetic by learning from the masters: observe art by great photographers from the past and present in books, galleries, and on the web. Without a solid education in your pursuit, you would miss out on the basics and limit your ability to innovate and create something of your own. Without knowledge of photography from the past, you miss out on the chance to be inspired by other talented people, and you would not be able to form a style of your own because you either could not follow a proven path or walk outside it. Once you have the basics down, it takes practice and learning from your mistakes. After building your own sensibility, your techniques can be developed, both in the shooting phase and in post-processing, which also takes a lot of skill.

Do you feel that photography motivates significant interest in conservation?

Yes, that is one of my photographic goals. Many people may be unaware of the exceptional beauty of our planet because, while living in a city or suburb, they aren’t used to noticing nature. Seeing the wonders that surround us could change the way they think about protecting the world’s treasures.

Did you enjoy attending the Mkapa Awards event in Nairobi? What was your favorite moment?

Yes, I enjoyed the event very much. There was a very welcoming and friendly environment. The AWF staff was very kind, and the event was perfectly organized. Maybe the best moment was right after the ceremony where everyone could celebrate and enjoy their time together, take photos, chat, and drink. The Awards event brought photographers together with AWF like a big family united by our shared passion.

This article was originally published in the Mkapa Awards special edition of Nature’s Best Photography magazine. See Riccardo Marchegiani's photography on his website Joy of Light, and follow him on Facebook and Instagram @joyoflight_

> Learn more about the 2022 Benjamin Mkapa African Wildlife Photography Awards and submit your entries before June 1