Shine Heroes • Federico Estol
There are 3000 shoe shiners who go out into the streets of La Paz and El Alto suburbs each day in search of clients. They are from all ages and in recent years have become a social phenomenon in the Bolivian capital.
What characterizes this tribe is the use of ski masks so they will not be recognized by those around them. They confront the discrimination they face through these masks; in their neighbourhoods no one knows that they work as shoe shiners, at school they hide this fact, and even their own families believe they have a different job when they head down to the center of the city from El Alto.
The mask is their strongest identity, what makes them invisible while at the same time unites them. This collective anonymity makes them tougher when facing the rest of society and is their resistance against the exclusion they suffer because they carry out this work.
I have been there and I can attest that there are shoes that dazzle thanks to the super powers of the family of shoe shiners living in La Paz, the true shine heroes.
Uruguayan photographer, graduated from the Image and Multimedia Technology Center of Politechnic University of Cataluña – BarcelonaTech. He is currently working in editorial assignments, promoting the Photobook Club Montevideo and as editor of El Ministerio Ediciones publishing house. He has been selected in festivals as Noorderlicht photofestival (NL), Athens photofestival (GR), Aleppo photofestival (SR), Backlight photofestival (FIN), Festival Internazionale di Roma (IT), Paraty em Foco and Canela foto (BR), Fotograma and San José Foto (UY), Nexofoto and Emulsión Sur (ES), Addis Foto Fest (ET), Fotofest (BO) and Photonic Moments (SL). He has been included in exhibitions at Aperture Foundation New York, Fundación Pablo Atchugarry Punta el Este, Contemporary Art Space Montevideo, Metropolitan State University Minneapolis and MACRO Museum Rome. The Treasure Island is his third published photobook after Fiestas del Uruguay and Hello Montevideo. He has received several awards, grants and scholarships, recently honoured with the Latin American Photobook award by CDF of Montevideo 2013, the Latin American Fotografía award 2015 and the IILA Fotografía award in Rome 2016.