Federico Estol

Héroes del Brillo

This Uruguayan photographer focuses his attention on the more than 3,000 shoe shiners who compete daily for customers in the streets of La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. They hide their faces beneath balaclavas so as not to be recognised; they do not want their neighbours in the El Alto area to know what they really do, and their families believe that they have different jobs. They fight against discrimination with these improvised masks, which make them invisible and at the same time bring them together as an urban tribe, and as a result of this collective anonymity they feel invincible against the rest of society. Over three years, Federico Estol collaborated with 60 shoe shiners in the production of a newspaper called Hormigón armado [Reinforced concrete]. Each photo in this essay is presented in a form that is reminiscent of photo stories, as these shoe shine heroes emerge from this participatory work with the Andean architecture of El Alto as a backdrop; faceless fighters each with a strong identity. The protagonists of this photobook – published in the form of a newspaper – are actors and producers at the same time, and they confront social stigmatization with creativity and irony.

Uruguayan photographer, graduated from the Image and Multimedia Technology Center of Politechnic University of Cataluña. Artistic director of SAN JOSÉ FOTO festival, coordinator of the Photobook Club Montevideo and editor of El Ministerio Ediciones publishing house. He has been selected in festivals as Noorderlicht photofestival, Athens photofestival, IN/OUT photofestival, Verzasca Foto, Aleppo photofestival, Backlight photofestival, Festival Internazionale di Roma, Paraty em Foco, Valongo and Canela foto, Fotograma and San José Foto, Nexofoto, Santander Photo and Emulsión Sur, Addis Foto Fest, Fotofest, Kaunas Photo and Photonic Moments. He has been included in exhibitions at Aperture Foundation, Fundación Pablo Atchugarry, FOLA, Casa Florida, Contemporary Art Space, Mattatoio and MACRO Museum. ‘Shine Heroes’ is his fourth published photobook. He has received several awards, grants and scholarships, honoured with the Latin American Photobook award by CDF of Montevideo, the IILA Fotografía award in Rome 2016 and FELIFA International photobook award 2018. Nominee for Prix PICTET 2019.