A delicate dragonfly perches on a slender green leaf. Its flimsy wings, outstretched on either side, are even more diaphanous than usual. They look like nothing more than wisps of smoke – and funnily enough, that’s exactly what they are! This beautiful little insect and the rest of the creatures that follow are the creations of Russian artist and photographer Stanislav Aristov. Each one is a clever combination of burnt matches, smoke, flames (sometimes), and just a touch of Photoshop. And the results, we think you’ll agree, are quite enchanting.
In this shot, a spider hangs from a silky web with four of its eight legs curled around the bright orb of the flame that makes up its body. It’s not one for the arachnophobes out there, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. To make his creations, Aristov bends burnt matchsticks into the shapes he desires – which must be careful work, considering how fragile they are.
A matchstick spiral creates the shell of a small snail, in this next photograph. The snail’s body is on fire, or rather, is fire, as it makes its way up the green blade of grass. It would probably take more than a few grains of salt to get rid of this notorious garden pest, but then again, it’s so pretty that why would you want to?
Aristov’s use of fire creates an effective contrast to the blackness of the matches and the backgrounds, and it also seems to make his creatures come to life. You can almost see the fins of this fish moving as it swims through the water. This matchstick art is definitely striking (sorry!).
Fire, smoke and a blackened match all come together to form this tiny flying bug. As with the dragonfly, the smoky vapors create realistic, gauzy wings with their swirling patterns. Aristov’s photographs have a dream-like, almost hypnotic, quality to them, like the experience of staring at a lit candle.
This elegant butterfly’s glowing color could compete with its most brightly hued, real-life counterpart! You won’t find anything like this in your garden, of course, although that’s probably a good thing. It might look pretty, but you certainly wouldn’t want it landing on any dried twigs. And just imagine the damage it would do to your butterfly net!
Who’s a pretty Polly? This parrot is! In this close-up photograph, we can see the wonderful textures of the burnt match that makes up the head and neck of the fiery bird. Incidentally, the Chinese invented wooden matches over a thousand years ago. These early matchsticks were made from pinewood and impregnated with sulfur. Poetically, they were known as “light-bringing slaves.”
These days, matches are pretty safe – in responsible hands – but this wasn’t always the case. In 1805, Jean Chancel invented the first self-igniting match. Its head was made of sulfur, potassium chlorate, sugar and rubber. And it was ignited by being dipped into an asbestos bottle filled with hazardous sulfuric acid. Unsurprisingly, this type of match didn’t catch on.
In this photograph, man’s best friend glows as a flaming silhouette. The burnt-up matchstick head also looks a bit like a cratered asteroid.
Modern matches are ignited using friction – a method invented in 1826 by English chemist John Walker. Yet Walker’s early matches weren’t much safer than Chancel’s and were prone to creating dangerous flaming fireballs that set whatever they fell on alight.
Here, two scary-looking, fiery eyes peep out between matchsticks. And, as pointed out, the early prototypes of the modern safety match were quite frightening as well! One such development was the white phosphorus match, the match heads of which were so toxic that people could commit suicide just by eating them!
This cute koala-like fellow is actually a popular Russian cartoon character known as Cheburashka. He’s featured in books and as cuddly toys. Cheburashka isn’t based on any real-life animal, but the creator says he’s a “funny little creature, unknown to science, who lives in the tropical forest.”
Next, a flaming lizard slowly makes its way up a dark wall... Most of the matches used these days are safety matches, which were invented by Gustaf Erik Pasch in Sweden in 1844. Despite the name, they’re still classified as ‘dangerous goods’ – although clearly they’re not as dangerous as some of their predecessors.
In this astonishing photo, a minute snail crawls up the underside of a blade of grass, while dew-like fire drips from the plant’s tip. Here, Aristov’s artistic skill has transformed a much-maligned critter into an object of delicate beauty.
Now a cobra spreads its fiery hood, ready to strike! Aristov describes his matchstick photographs as “big life, small pieces of wood,” and we can see why. In this image we almost expect the coiled snake to lunge at us!
In this final photograph, a graceful swan floats by, its beak and body made from dazzling orange fire. The water in which it glides, meanwhile, is suggested by a thin wisp of smoke.
Who knew that humble burnt matchsticks could make for such gorgeous images? It just goes to show that in the right hands, even the smallest bits of discarded trash can be transformed into something wonderful.