Each day in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, a group of 3000 masked shoe shiners flood the streets. They disguise themselves in order to avoid recognition and discrimination, as their job is looked down upon by society. The photobook Shine Heroes is the result of a three-year collaboration between the artist Federico Estol (b. 1981, Uruguay) and 60 of these shoe shiners. Together with the local NGO El Hormigón Armado ("Armed Concrete"), Estol presents the anonymous workers in their strength and defends their dignity.
The publication takes on the form of a comic book, presenting the shiners as superheroes that come to the rescue whenever a shoe is dirty. As soon as they are summoned by the bright reflection of the sun in their mirrors, they pick up their gear and get into action. The shiners – often minors with low education, and many of them living in the suburb of El Alto – must keep their line of work hidden from their own families. Their ski masks, giving them a new shared identity, indicates a belonging to an alternative "family".
Héroes del Brillo (the original Spanish title of the zine), published with the support of Hormigón Armado, Bolivia, and El Ministerio Ediciones, Uruguay, is shortlisted for the Aperture – Paris Photo First Photook Award 2019. Federico Estol's project was featured in GUP #63