Cycling with purpose:
Federico Cabrera

Federico Cabrera is a Buenos Aires based photographer for whom cycling has a purpose. Their Only Portrait is a long-term project in which he has spent the last 9 years travelling around remote and impoverished regions of South America, taking and printing portraits of families without access to them. Travelling by bike between villages he has covered over 45.000 km to date, providing around 500 portraits and 350 solar lamps and water filters to those who need them most.
Unfortunately, his last trip in Colombia didn't get off to a great start. He was hit by an SUV in Bogota while trying to acclimatize to the countries brutal topograhy. His helmet saved him from serious injury, but he still got 14 stitches in his forehead and a week in bed. Sadly the printer he carries for his portraits was also damaged in the accident.

Fede's most recent journey is going far more smoothly. He has just finished riding the 145 mile Monkey Puzzle trail through Chile and is travelling onwards to Patagonia, where a month's worth of riding awaits. We can't wait to see more of the beautiful landscapes he will travel through.

Mountain bike riders

This project is such a beautiful idea. What inspired you to start it? Were you planning a bikepacking trip and the portrait idea followed or was the photography the catalyst?

Unfortunately while I was exploring Peru & Bolivia, I was heartbroken by many tourists taking photos of local people as if they’re in a Human Safari (without showing any respect to their subjects) but it was even worse when I found out several of those local people didn’t have a single family photo.

I realized I wanted to make a small difference (or at least to leave things a little bit better than they were at my arrival) and I started “Their Only Portrait” in 2014.
By experience, I knew I was going to be treated as a “fancy tourist” whenever I reach a small village with a big 4x4, but I still needed something to get me (with all my gear) to those remote villages. I did some research and I saw “Mountain bikes strapped with dry bags” used to explore remote locations and suddenly cycling was back in my life.

By early 2015, I was riding my old dirt-jumper with “DIY bikepacking bags” and a 35 litre backpack through a small Inca trail above 4,000 meters… My bike and kit have progressed but I haven’t stopped since then!

Starla riding

How do the families respond to you offering to take their portrait? And what are the practicalities of this, do you carry a small printer or are they sent out to them at a later date? 
Families love their printed portraits, as they usually don't have any image from the entire family (they might have old ones where the youngers kids are missing).

These days I carry a pretty big/heavy printer (4kg including photographic paper & ink) which delivers up to A4 prints, but with the image quality delivered on site its worth every gram!


You also provide solar lamps and water purifiers to those most in need and encourage others to do the same if travelling in remote areas. Using your talents to raise awareness of these small acts of kindness is so inspiring, is there a way that readers at home can support the great work you are doing?
My biggest struggle, besides a tight budget for air tickets (I have a Paypal account,, where I gather funds for future trips)  is the logistics to get the solar lamps & water filter from the US to South America; if readers have any suggestions, they will be highly appreciated!

One of the first portraits Fede gave away

What are your plans for the future? 
I'll probably return Home for a couple months after this trip, in order to take care of my bees (I'm also a beekeeper). After the Holidays, IF I'm able to gather enough funds, I'm planning to ride the Baja Divide (Mexico) and la Ruta Mala (Cuba)!

April 11, 2024 — Jacob Rubio