Meet Slavik, Ukraine’s Greatest Cover Model

At first glance, Slavik — whose last name is not known — may appear like other homeless men. Weather-beaten, unshaven, and often swigging from a bottle, he wanders the streets of Lviv, Ukraine, in search of cigarettes and scraps of food. But Slavik stands apart from other local transients — some of them displaced by Russian aggression in the east — in that he takes great pride in his appearance, choosing a different outfit to wear each day. No easy feat for anyone, to be sure, especially not when one’s wardrobe consists solely of trash-can finds and the occasional handout from a shelter.

This is how the voguish vagrant was discovered, if you will. In 2011, photographer Yuko Dyachyshyn spotted Slavik’s unique fashion sense, struck up a rapport, and started a project to immortalize each of his new friend’s daily looks. Every day, the two would search public spaces until they found each other, then Slavik would pose modestly, sometimes smiling, sometimes not, for his admirer — not unlike a peacocking street-style star. He exhibits “beauty, style and fashion and his suits are not random,” wrote Dyachyshyn on his website. “It is not accidental that he changes them every day, adjusting them carefully to weather and season.”

The two went about their photo shoots for two years — until Slavik went missing in early 2013. Disheartened, Dyachyshyn then began a second project, Slavik Super Star, in which he collaged previously snapped portraits of Slavik onto glossies. “In order to appear on the cover of a magazine (even if you are a celebrity) you have to get into trouble or die,” says Dyachyshyn, rather philosophical on the subject. “Immediately everybody recalls all your merit, achievements or sins and for a few days, weeks or months you are a star.” The cut and pasted cover art remains a poignant, guerrilla-inspired testament to the triumph of will and friendship, for Slavik will stick around one way or another.

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