Exposure+ Photo: 'Shine Heroes' by Federico Estol (21/9/23 - 1/10/23)
Zontiga is once again participating in the multi-venue photography event Exposure+ Photo! This time, we are hosting Federico Estol's project 'Shine Heroes' from 21 September - 1 October 2023.
There are 3,000 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 characterises this tribe is the use of ski masks so they will not be recognised 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.
For three years I have been collaborating with sixty shoe shiners associated with the shoe shiners newspaper "Hormigón Armado". We planned together the scenes during a series of graphic novels workshops including backgrounds of the new Andean architecture of El Alto. Three years of a participative essay with the Shine Heroes as producers and actors of a photobook to sell on the streets and fight against their social stigma.
Federico Estol (b. 1981) is an Uruguayan photographer and artist based in Montevideo. He currently works as a visual storyteller producing stories in Latin America. His long-term projects focus on the relationship between cultural identity, inequality and social justice. He is also the artistic director of San José Foto Festival and editor of El Ministerio Ediciones photobook publishing house.
Estol holds a bachelor's degree in photography from the UPC-Barcelona Tech University and a degree in popular education. His work has garnered awards including Emergentes award at Encontros da Imagem festival (Portugal), New Visión award at Cortona on the Move festival (Italy), Photolucida award of the Oregon Center of Photography (USA), FELIFA Best International Photobook award (Argentina) and Expert Award at the Lishui Photography Museum (China).