Where do you live?
I live in Buenos Aires (Argentina), before my 30s I was almost burned out and decided to move to the countryside (30 miles away) while still working 12+ hours a day in the city.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a freelance & editorial photographer with Getty Images.
When did you find your passion for photography?
I always loved nature and as a child I would dream of exploring Africa as a National Geographic photographer. But it was not until I moved to the countryside that I started studying things just for pleasure. I became a Beekeeper (and I have 50 hives to supply organic honey for to friends & family), I became a Barista (ended up participating at the World Barista Champion at Tokyo for Argentina) and I finally studied photography that had been a hobby for a very long time (and started working with Getty Images in 2010) while I still worked full time. By the end of 2011 I guess I realized the importance of time over money & material wealth, as I somehow found the courage to leave behind a career in Foreign Trade (15+ years). I loaded my truck with camping gear, my old dirt jumper and I headed to Patagonia for 3 months with my camera…
Their Only Portrait is a small personal project that aims to give something back to the local communities I’m visiting. I spent some time traveling through South America and I was disgusted by tourists with big cameras making photos of local people as if they’re in a human safari (without showing any respect to their subject). When I started spending more time with locals while camping & couch surfing (instead of staying at hostels) I became aware that most of those local people don´t have a printed memory of the most important moments of their lives or their families, and those who did, really treasured them… and as a photographer I thought I needed to make a difference even if was one photo at a time. Consequently, I started Their Only Portrait, and I’ll be making family portraits of the local people I meet along the road, as I ride thousands of kilometers through South America. Carrying a small portable photography studio will let me create and give each family a printed copy of their ONE photo. Which families do you decide to visit and why?
I don’t know which kind of families I’ll be visiting, where I’ll be spending my nights, or even when I’ll finish this trip. All I know is that I’m starting at La Quiaca (up north at the border with Bolivia) and I will cycle 4000 miles along the Cordillera de los Andes till I can’t go any further south (Ushuaia) and I’ll be making 1000+ portraits during that process.
I’ll travel slow and meet locals daily (when buying food, asking for directions or permission to camp at somebodies’ yard)… and with the ones I’m able to relate I’ll be making & printing their portraits. I’ll also be visiting the most remote local schools supported by Fundacion Ruta 40 (www.fundacionruta40.org.ar) to make (& print) their student’s portraits, too.
You recently got back from a trip in Northern Argentina, what were the highlights?
I think the highlight was that was able to put myself and some of the gear to the test, cycling two of the worst climbs in Argentina. Cuesta de Lipan goes from 7837 to 13681 feet in a 112500 feet ascent and Serrania del Hornocal goes from 8200+ to 14000+ feet in a 82000 feet ascent.
Camping gear & clothing worked flawlessly and I confirmed I’ll need to replace a lot of my cycling gear… plus I was able to join Virgen de Copacabana de Punta Corral’s pilgrimage with my bike (and spent two nights with the locals at a small chapel in the middle of the mountains) and visit my first school supported by Fundacion Ruta 40, to meet their lovely 8 students (they walk up to 12miles a day to go to class).
What is your next trip and where will the path be taking you?
My next trip will take me to bikepack BR-319, a 600 miles trip through one of the best preserved areas of the Amazon jungle. This road was abandoned decades ago and was reclaimed by nature… the locals called it “Caminho das Oncas” as it’s still one of the few places where it’s common to spot the endangered big cat (Jaguar).
What countries do you plan on visiting in this endeavor?
So far, I have plans for Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, & Bolivia. Then I’ll probably take a break (and with some luck visit another continent) before cycling Peru and the remaining countries of South America.
What advice would you give people that are coming to bikepack in Argentina?
My main advice will be not to rush to reach Patagonia (unless “winter is coming”) and spend more time exploring the small villages at northern Argentina, because that’s where you’ll find the real Argentinian culture & people.
What camera gear are you bringing and how are your providing prints?
For my 1st warm up trip I carried more than 20lb in photography gear & electronics. For my second warm up trip I’ll change the approach and try a small mirror-less camera with a leaf shutter to maximize the power of a small flash (but for the main trip I’m also willing to carry a higher definition camera, medium format if possible). I’ll also be carrying as small portable Canon Photo Printer with ink & paper to print 100 portraits, and as soon as the inventory gets low I’ll request more to be shipped to my current location from Buenos Aires.
What bike will you be using on this journey?
For the main trip I’ll ride the soon to be released Hayduke 27.5+ hardtail from Advocate Cycles. Unfortunately it won’t be ready till August and I’m trying to borrow a fatbike for the Amazon warm up trip (delivering images for editorial use & social media in exchange). I think a fatbike (or at least a mid-fat) will be ideal to face the soft terrains I’m expecting to find and to my knowledge nobody “fatpacked” this route, yet.
You made your own bags for your previous trip, will you be doing that again?
I made my own bags because my budget was tight and wasn’t planning to bikepack with my old dirt jumper again. They got the job done, but they’re far from weatherproof and were always moving and rubbing the wheels. The Amazon jungle is one of the worst environments for electronics & photo gear, so I’m planning to get the best bags I’m able to afford. I’d been talking with Scott Felter (Porcelain Rocket) but unfortunately we can’t make any progress until I know which bike I’ll be riding for this trip
How can the community support your priceless photographic memories?
The community’s support will put a print in someone’s hand and at this stage of the Project they can donate paper & ink for prints, meals, or gear through Paypal or the Wish Lists (http://www.theironlyportrait.com/get-involved/).
Anyone you would like to thank?
I’ve to thank all the friends that gave me tips/suggestions for the website, you and Andrea Borchi for letting me talk about my Project, Advocate Cycles, Ergon, etc… but if I could only thank one person that would be Roger Callahan (Goleta, CA), the first stranger that believed in this Project and made a donation.