Ukrainian photographer Yurko Dyachyshyn's series Slavik's Fashion documents the daily sartorial choices of Slavik, a 55-year-old homeless man living in the city of Lviv. Although Slavik's wardrobe is made up of worn pieces pulled from city trash bins and homeless aid centers, his unique, unconventional ensembles almost look as if they belong on the runway. According to Dyachyshyn, the homeless man takes great pride in his fashion-foward sensibilities, taking the time to change his clothes at least once a day while restyling his hair and his beard with each new outfit.
Dyachyshyn first met his muse in the city center, where he saw Slavik approaching strangers to ask for spare change. Eventually, the photographer found himself snapping a photo of Slavik's outfit every time they ran into each other, giving the homeless man a dollar in return for each portrait. Over the course of a couple of years, the two formed a unique friendship, somehow managing to regularly find each other in the city crowd to exchange a few words and have a quick photo session.
Slavik, who would sometimes disappear for random periods of time that could range from days to weeks to months, has not been seen by his photographer friend since January 2013, but Dyachyshyn remains hopeful that he will run into the stylish man on the street again, someday.
We got in touch with Dyachyshyn to ask him a few questions about his photo series and its main subject. Check out that exclusive interview, below.
When did you first spot Slavik? What inspired you to start a photo series on him?
All of my business and creative work is related to the central (old) part of the city center of Lviv. There are always lots of people and events, tourists, various eccentrics; among them was Slavik. I observed him long ago, constantly meeting on the street, but did not want to be distracted by him because I was working on another project. . . Later I noticed his daily habit of changing clothes and decided to just focus on his suits.
All photos (over 100 different portraits) were taken during occasional meetings over two years. I could meet Slavik every day or every few weeks or months. Later he got used to me, then he sought me out knowing where I am, or if I had free time I went to places where we probably could come across each other. Otherwise, it was impossible to reach an agreement with him.
What's your favorite thing about Slavik? What's his personality like?
I like that Slavik is different from the “homeless” stereotype. He is a homeless person, but not an ordinary one. His way of life is different from that of the other homeless. He does not carry lots of bags, nor does he rummage in the trash cans. Slavik says that a man should care about staying healthy and keeping away from distracting one’s peace of mind. But despite such indifferent answers, Slavik still has the feeling of beauty, style, and fashion; his suits are not random, and it is not accidental that he changes them every day, adjusting them carefully according to the weather and season.
I like his philosophy: “The main thing is not to lose health, and it is essential that nobody ruins or interferes with a man's internal peace,” Slavik said.
How does Slavik feel about being an internet celebrity?
I think he doesn't know about it because Slavik disappeared from the streets of Lviv in January 2013. Slavik often disappeared for long periods of time and suddenly appeared again and asked me where I had been. He called me his friend and said that it is very scary to lose a friend. The last time I saw him was in January 2013; I hope that he is well, and that one day he will suddenly appear behind my back and say, “Ehh, friend, where have you been?”
Thanks so much for the interview, Yurko!