Andrew Vasiliev Uses Hot Wax for Breathtakingly Beautiful Photos (NSFW)

“I had several basic requirements for this model,” the photographer Andrew Vasiliev admits. “The most important thing, of course, was the courage to agree to take part in such a shoot. She needed to be daring and ready to experiment.” Once he found the perfect model, Julia, they got to work. With the help of his wife, the artist adorned her in resplendent layers of melted paraffin wax, with lit candles burning on her shoulders.  

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Julia brought something of her own to the shoot as well. “Her tattoos fit well into the composition, giving the shoot an Egyptian, mythical atmosphere,” Vasiliev says. The tattoo on her back, for example, calls to mind memories of Bastet, the cat-headed goddess and daughter of Isis and Ra, the sun god. In ancient Egypt, Bastet became associated with protection, family, and even the sunrise, making her a fitting companion to Vasiliev’s flaming candles and burning wax. 

We asked the photographer to tell us more about his magical sensibility and the creation of these otherworldly images.  

The essential gear of Andrew Vasiliev

Vasiliev tells us, 

“I have been shooting with the Canon EOS 6D and Sigma 24mm f1.4 Art lens for many years. I like the wide focal length. This series was shot against a wall with natural light streaming in from a window. No additional light was used. Well, except for the light from the candles we lit. With that being said, I might choose a specific camera or lens for convenience, but I don’t see any of my tools as irreplaceable. The photo is taken by the photographer, not the gear.” 

Phoblographer: How did you first embark on your journey as a photographer? 

Andrew Vasiliev: The answer might sound trivial, but I just bought my first camera, and I enjoyed shooting. For many years, I did not consider myself a photographer. This was and remains a hobby for me–a means of expressing myself and sharing my thoughts with others. There must have been some kind of subconscious craving that I did not even know about initially because something made me buy my first camera. I’m still not sure what it was. 

Phoblographer: Where did the idea for this series originate?

Andrew Vasiliev: I happened to see a photo online featuring a girl with unlit candles on her shoulder, and I thought it was strange that the artist would stop there. I realized that I could develop this idea and make the photo much more interesting: the candles should burn, with hot wax dripping from them. In the photo I found, the model was clothed, but I realized clothes weren’t necessary for my vision: the whole dress should be made entirely of wax. All that remained was figuring out whether I could actually implement my plan.

Phoblographer: Your pictures remind me a bit of the ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche– the part where Psyche spills candle wax on Cupid while he sleeps–and the model’s tattoos allude to Egyptian mythology. Were you inspired by any legends, myths, or stories while making these images?

Andrew Vasiliev: I wouldn’t say I was inspired by an existing myth so much as trying to create a new one. I also want each viewer, looking at the photos, to feel inspired to come up with their own myths and interpretations, based on their own experiences. 

Phoblographer: How did you keep your model safe during this shoot? Why did you choose paraffin to mimic the appearance of candle wax? 

Andrew Vasiliev: I studied different materials and ultimately chose cosmetic paraffin. It looks and melts just like wax, but it has a slightly lower melting point. It begins to melt at a temperature of 52°C, similar to a hot shower. It doesn’t cause burns or any damage to the skin, and its ingredients are harmless, as it is regularly used in cosmetic procedures.

But I want to warn everyone! When I say harmless, I do not mean pleasant. Before attempting to repeat my technique, try it on yourself, test out the temperature, work out your methodology, and take your time when applying it to a model.

Phoblographer: Did you work with a makeup artist, or did you do most of this yourself?

Andrew Vasiliev: I don’t have a large team, and I don’t work with professional makeup artists. Sometimes, my wife helps me. In this case, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, so we made it happen. 

Phoblographer: Were the candles actually lit, or were the flames added in post-production? 

Andrew Vasiliev: Of course, they were lit! The candles were burning on set, though I sometimes had to extinguish just one candle, the one closest to the model’s hair, for safety. In that case, I cloned the flame from another candle. 

My advice? If you need candlelight or flames, then use a real candle. Using actual candlelight is the best way to get that natural glow. The point of this shoot was not to make a digital collage. I did some color correction, and I also stretched the background a little to fill more space. That was it. 

Phoblographer: What was the shoot like? How long did the whole process take?

Andrew Vasiliev: I would have liked to shoot this series in an interesting location or a beautiful interior studio, but the process of applying the wax is quite long and laborious, so that had to be taken into account. The paraffin application took several hours, though the shooting itself took about half an hour. I also spent weeks researching and preparing. I saw this shoot as a training session and a good experience, and I’d like to apply these skills to future projects down the road. 

Phoblographer: Did you face any unexpected challenges on set?

Andrew Vasiliev: There were no big surprises during this shoot, and that came down to preparation. I try to think in advance about any problems that could arise on set and be prepared for them. In this case, I researched the material and tested it out before the session, so I was ready to go. 

Phoblographer: What emotions or feelings, if any, helped drive the creation of this series? 

Andrew Vasiliev: I try not to put my current mood into the photos I make, as moods can change, and I want the pictures to be timeless. My mood can change during the shoot, but I’m always focused on the goal. With that being said, it’s hard for me to be creative when I feel bad. I need a good mood and inspiration in order to create. The shooting itself always improves my mood too. If I’m shooting, then I’m content. 

Phoblographer: What advice would you give to yourself as a young artist, back when you first picked up a camera? 

Andrew Vasiliev: You can always learn how to shoot, how to light a set, and how to process your photos. Video tutorials and internet articles are helpful here. But remember that technique is secondary. The only thing that matters, in the end, is the picture in your head. Refine your taste, and seek out the things you find most beautiful. Study works by other photographers and artists; watch movies, and read books. Find inspiration, and the rest will follow. 

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All photos by Andrew Vasiliev. Used with permission. For more from the artist, visit his website. You can follow along on Instagram at @​​vavfoto365, on Facebook at @vavfotos, on 500px at @vavfoto, and on Behance at @vavfoto