Their Only Portrait is a photography project run by Federico Cabrera. Fede has spent the past decade travelling South America on various bikepacking trips and the project was started in order to try and give something back to the small local communities he passed through on his travels. 

We spoke to Fede to find out more about Their only portrait and his travels...


How long have you been on the road for now?

So far I’d been on the road with my Little Personal Project for 5 years.

Federico sat on a beached shipwreck with his cycling rig and equipment

Tell us a bit about your ‘Their only portrait’ project. How did this start and roughly how many portraits have you taken now?

A decade ago 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 family photo; so I decided to carry a portable photography studio on my bike in order to make prints give away family portraits for those families who didn't have one.  

When I was riding in Northern Argentina in 2015 (my 2nd trip), I found out many families didn't have access to clean drinkable water (unfortunately 100,000 people die every year due to water contamination just in Latin America) or electricity, so nowadays I'm also giving away water filters & solar lamps, as well as printed family portraits. In the last 5 years, I've ridden 20.000 kilometers through South America, and have donated 500 printed portraits and 300 solar lamps & water filters.

a south american lady holding a portrait that Federico took of her and her friends

Which country that you have cycled through has inspired you the most so far? Has your photography style been influenced by your travels?

I think the country that inspired me the most was my own (Argentina). Before I started riding through remote locations, I didn’t know how generous the people with very little could be, so this has also proved to be a great inspiration. After spending 5 years on the road, I realized you don’t need a lot of gear to make a good environmental portrait… and nowadays simplicity & authenticity are my way to go.

Federicos set up of water filters & solar lamps, as well as printed family portraits.

The big question that everyone wants to know… what bike are you riding? Are there any special modifications that you have made to cater to your journey?

For my upcoming trip to Venezuela I’ll be riding Bombtrack’s Hook ADV. In order to ride through remote locations, I upgraded my wheelset to Mason x HUNT 650B Adventure Dynamo Disc wheelset with Exposure Revo package and I'll fit a smaller chainring plus a bigger cassette, chubbier tires, and a different saddle. That should make life easier on the long climbs and rough roads.

Mountainous South American landscape

And finally what does the future hold? Do you plan your trips in advance or just take it as it comes?

After the trip to Venezuela, I’m planning to put the bike through the test at the Peru Divide & the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route… and before the year ends, some bike-rafting adventures through Patagonia!

smiling mother and child infront of their tent


You can see the full collection of photos and buy his prints and support the project on his website 

You can follow Fede and his project on Fede's Instagram - @theironlyportrait

January 16, 2020 — James Finch
Tags: Beyond