Federico Estol is an Uruguayan photographer, who graduated from the Image and Multimedia Technology Center of Politechnic University of Cataluña – BarcelonaTech. He is currently working as artistic director of SAN JOSÉ FOTO festival, promoting the Photobook Club Montevideo and as editor of El Ministerio Ediciones publishing house.
Shine Heroes (2018) is his fourth published photobook after Fiestas del Uruguay (2009), Hello Montevideo (2011) and The Treasure Island (2014). He has received several awards, grants and scholarships, recently honoured with the Latin American Photobook award by CDF of Montevideo 2013, the IILA Fotografía award in Rome 2016, FELIFA International photobook award 2018 and the Cosmos Arles PDF Award 2019.
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 come 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 with 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 centre of the city from El Alto.
The mask is their strongest identity, what makes them invisible while at the same time unites them.
I was there and I can attest that there are shoes that blind you only by looking at them thanks to the family of shoe shiners in La Paz, the true shine heroes.