Inspiration Through a Journey of Exploration: Part Two – Federico Cabrera

By NCOAE Headquarters November 14, 2020


Federico Cabrera is a dreamer. For years, he had dreams of becoming a National Geographic photographer. Taking photos in Africa was top of mind for 15 years as he toiled in foreign trade. But that nagging thought of grabbing up a camera and exploring the world finally prompted Federico to give up his successful career and follow  the photo bug dream.

These days, Federico Cabrera is a Buenos Aires-based freelance photographer, traveling throughout South America on a bicycle and living in the countryside and, as we’d like to point out, making a difference in the world.

Federico Cabrera family portrait
(Image © 2020 Federico Cabrera)

Walking away from his former career, Federico put new-found energy into a life behind the lens. And to do this, he said he began commuting country to country by bike, initially to reduce stress and eventually to return to a simple/healthier way of living. He now travels at a pace that enables him to actually see the countryside from the seat of a chain-driven bicycle rather than behind the wheel of a fast-moving, impersonal car.

Today, we feature the works of Federico in Part 2 of our Inspiration Through Exploration series. A photo is nothing more than light passing through a hole in a box. Whether exposed to paper treated with chemicals or digital receptors, the end product is the same — a photograph. And when you see a photograph that moves you, that is inevitably the result of the subject and the camera operator engaging in the movement of light together — a beautiful dance.

This week’s featured artist not only performs this dance with his subjects, but he produces beautiful portraits of them that he frames and then hands over to the subjects of his photography. His portraits are the residents of poor communities in South America, many living in homes with little or no access to electricity or clean water.

It was while visiting with these families that Federico discovered that in many of the homes, the residents didn’t even have a portrait of their family. That prompted him to carry a printer along with paper and ink to deliver personal portraits of his subjects.

On a more realistic level, Federico saw many families living with little or no electricity in their homes and worse yet, contamination in their water supplies. He decided he could make a small difference by handing out solar lamps and water filters to households he visited while on his expeditions. That, along with portraits of those families that were often the only photographs these South Americans had in their homes.

Federico figures he’s donated nearly 350 solar lamps and water filters, along with more than 500 printed portraits in the six years since he began these bikepacking adventures, which include expeditions through Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia.

So when Federico packs up for a photo expedition, he brings along his essential photography equipment, as well as solar lights and water filters that he personally delivers to those who need them.

A photographer? Yes, but Federico is much more, not only capturing the light to make a family portrait, but a light that is filled with empathy, compassion and a heart.

We asked Federico what inspires him and how he arrives at his inspiration:

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A Photograph Is Seldom Worth Even One Outdoor Education Experience

By Stephen Mullaney July 22, 2017

Outdoor Education

Here’s an exchange that recently occurred between a tourist and myself:

“What kind of camera do you use?”


“What kind of camera do you use to show people what you’ve done?”

“I don’t,” I replied as I stepped onto the beach, board tucked under my arm, ready to paddle out to the surfline.

The woman appeared a bit confused by my answer, possibly perplexed that I wasn’t carrying a GoPro or waterproof camera on my morning adventure.

I recall as a kid we used to watch documentaries in school and read articles about cultures where the inhabitants refused to be photographed for fear it would steal their souls. We were amazed — and a little amused — that a primitive tribe or ancient community could believe that a small box that lets in light could actually snatch a soul.

NCOAE student on a recent Education Without Walls course in Alaska

NCOAE student on a recent Education Without Walls course in Alaska

Nobody’s stealing souls, we said. We all just seek memories. Something to show others where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished, uncovered or learned. And, while flipping through magazines, that’s what we saw. Other people’s adventures.

But today, things are becoming a little more like the tribes fearing the loss of their souls.

Whether in the surf, on the trail or gazing at the pristine surroundings from atop a mountain, we’re constantly surrounded by people actively (more…)

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