Their Only Portrait

Their Only Portrait

In 2015 Federico “Fede” Cabrera jumped on a bike with some DIY bike bags, his Fly Creek UL2, a camera, and an idea. The goal wasn’t a fastest known time or sweeping landscape photography but something so much more personal. After a fire nearly destroyed all his personal photos, it became clear to Fede how precious those memories are. Across many of the impoverished areas he traverses, Fede realized even in the age of smartphones folks often do not have one portrait of themselves or their families. Thus, the Their Only Portrait project became a reality.

Fede with his bike and bikepacking gear to travel around South America

Cycling thousands of miles across rural South America from his home base in Buenos Aires, Argentina Fede brings his digital printer and camera to provide families with what may be the first and only photo ever taken of them. As Fede visited villages across the varied landscapes of South America, it became clear that many do not have access to clean water or electricity. For this reason, alongside his camera and printer, Fede carries donations of solar lights and water filters. Though relatively small and self-powered, the kindness he shares is impactful.

Since he began this undertaking, Fede has since upgraded to a Big Agnes Fly Creek Carbon tent that has allowed Fede to carry even more donations to his off grid locations. Fede has also professed his love for the Pluton UL40 sleeping bag. “In 2019, I spent a month exploring ancient Inca Trails. A few months later, I flew to Cuzco Peru and I rode back home (it took me 3 ½ months to cover 4,000 miles back to Argentina). And just before the year ended, I took a bike-rafting trip to Tierra del Fuego for another month.”

A family posing for their family portrait

We at Big Agnes are proud to sponsor Fede and Their Only Portrait to help keep his project rolling. You can visit Their Only Portrait to learn more and see Fede’s gear list, photos, stories and more.

We sat down with the Fede to hear more about their journey. Check out our conversation below.

Give us a quick intro of who you are and tell us about your project Their Only Portrait.

My name is Federico Cabrera; I’m a photographer based in Buenos Aires, running “Their Only Portrait”, a little personal project where I cycle through beautiful but impoverished remote areas, to make a small tangible difference.

I make, print, and give away portraits to families who won’t otherwise ever have a family photograph; on some trips, I also donate solar lights and/or water filters to those who need them most.

A women holding her family portrait printed by Fede

Is there a specific experience/person that defines your project?

While backpacking through South America, I found out even in this “screen age”, some people still don’t have a single image of their own family. As I almost lost all my printed photos and hard drives to a fire, I realized I wanted to do something about that.

When I started spending more time on the road, I also realized how easier my life used to be with “unlimited” access to water and electricity. Sadly, I also discovered there are thousands of people without access to clean water and/or electricity.

How has Big Agnes been able to support you through your travels and adventures?

Back in 2015, when I was still riding a cheap bike with DIY bags, I was able to get my first UL shelter. The older Fly Creek UL2, proved I could fit all the essential gear in my bike and ride to small villages at remote locations (even if there are no roads).

Since then, I've been upgrading my gear with the latest designs, saving weight with my “Big 3”, just to carry more photography gear and donations.

How do you prepare for your long adventures? What keeps you going?

After 8 years on the road and 30,000 miles ridden, I already know the right gear for each trip. At 46 I’m not at my best, but I know I only need to go out and start pedaling (my fitness level will improve on the road). The toughest part is the mental challenge (riding alone for days in harsh conditions), but in the darkest moments, I always remember the people I met with my Project; how I can make a small difference, if I endure that steep climb or if I ride 10 more miles despite the brutal head wind.

I also know my Project is very small and there are millions who desperately need an act of kindness... and if I keep riding, with some luck, I might inspire others to make a difference, too!

Fede and a friend's bikes packed full of gear

What is your favorite piece of BA gear and where do you use it?

I love the Pluton UL40 and it stood the test of time throughout. In 2019, I spent a month exploring ancient Inca Trails. A few months later, I flew to Cuzco (Peru) and I rode back Home (it took me 3 ½ months to cover 4,000 miles back to Argentina). And just before the year ended, I took it in a bike-rafting trip to Tierra del Fuego for another month.

In 2020, I went to Amazonas and Venezuela, where unfortunately, COVID cut my trip short. In 2021, I took it for 4 months to Patagonia. This year, I took it to El Pantanal, where I bike-rafted for a month before I was caught by the rainy season.

The Pluton UL40 is my go-to sleeping bag for any trip where weight matters, but after such a long abuse, I might need something warmer before heading back to Tierra del Fuego!