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Little Missy Sunshine

May 28, 2012

Being asked by one of the most respected artists in the world of burlesque to photograph her hometown show last year was a massive honour.

So when I was invited back this year I jumped at the chance.

Missy Malone must be one of the most photographed (and painted and sketched) ladies I have ever worked with, from the little instagrams she posts on her blog to the most lavish studio productions, she never looks anything less than stunning. So I’d be fibbing if I said I didn’t feel a bit of pressure to keep up that tradition, while adding something new to the mix.

Great photo of Missy Malone applying lipstick

The finishing touch – Missy Malone backstage

The last time Missy had been in my studio we shot some vintage style promotional postcards for one of her acts, so it was great to see that very costume put through its paces on stage in the show opener.

Missy Malone performs a striptease on stage

Missy’s Goldrush act gets hearts racing

Missy Malone performs with yellow fans on stage

A ‘Golden Greats’ LP cover if ever I saw one

Missy always puts on a fabulous show and assembles a great cast. A couple of her revue regulars were there that night, including the blonde Bond girl bombshell, Cherry Shakewell.

Burlesque show dressing room

Backstage with Cherry Shakewell

Cherry Shakewell striptease

Cherry Shakewell – Lady of Cake

Also back at the Missy Malone and Friends Burlesque Review was the charming and cheeky Desmond O’Connor, who effortlessly engaged the audience with his stories and songs and stuck the proceedings together with showbiz glue.

Compere Desmond O'Connor

Ringmaster Desmond O’Connor

I enjoyed the energetic and tightly choreographed flapper-style dancers, The Bee’s Knees but all that darting about made them a bugger to photograph.

Flapper dancers The Bee's Knees

The Bee’s Knees

One of the highlights of the night for me was getting to see Anna Fur Laxis perform. Well, as much as I can, when I’m viewing things through a lens. She is someone I’d obviously heard lots about, and was the cover star of the Burlesque Bible I was featured in so it was nice to meet her and get a few shots.

Her acts were great and her reputation as one of the best in the business is well deserved.

Anna Fur Laxis on stage by photographer Rachel Spivey

The two sides of Anna Fur Laxis

Anna Fur Laxis on stage by photographer Rachel Spivey

Holy moly!

Another great mover was Luna Rosa. Very evocative of old-time Hollywood she was incredibly limber and bendy but kept her perfect poise throughout both of her sexy and seductive acts.

Luna Rosa burlesque performer

What makes Luna tick? Exotic erotica

Luna Rosa swishes veil


In a small theatre, it’s hard to run about at the foot of the stage without getting in the way, so I stayed up on my vantage point on the balcony for the performances. However the beauty of shooting a matinée is that there is enough natural light still around to get some informal shots backstage. Thanks to all the ladies who agreed to be photographed, I know it’s not something everyone is comfy with, but I think its is nice to document both sides of burlesque –  what we’re not supposed to see sometimes has as much beauty and drama as what we are.

Backstage with Luna Rosa and Cherry Shakewell

Luna and Cherry backstage

The second half of the show was as well-paced and varied as the second, with Cherry Shakewell kicking off with a rather swishy marine-themed number.

Cherry Shakewell neptune

Cherry Shakewell – Queen of the Sea

It was great to catch up with Missy again, even amid the chaos of putting on the show and performing twice herself, she never seems to get in a flap and is full of infectious positive energy. Her shows always have such a great vibe.

Missy Malone backstage

Missy prepares for her return to the stage

Missy Malone on stage with feathers and turban

Green flag means its safe to swim

Missy Malone by Raquel Rouge

A turban-powered performance

It fell to Anna Fur Laxis to close the show with a knife throwing balloon pop with a difference, and I have to say her props were amazing. Those were proper knives too. I got a nice shot her her cutting a cucumber with one but I figured you’d rather see ones like this…

Anna Fur Laxis on stage by photographer Rachel Spivey

Anna Fur Laxis – once she pops she just can’t stop

Anna Fur Laxis performs

Proper showgirl stuff from one of the top gals on the scene

It was a great show and a nice treat for me to get out and cover another burly night so close to the Garter Lounge the week before. A very big, public thanks to Missy for asking me along.

It was a pleasure.

Informal photos of Missy Malone and Magic Dave

Missy with Magic Dave

Missy’s Burlesque Revue gets around the country a fair bit so if she pops up near you I do recommend you make the effort to get out and see her and her friends do their stuff. In the meantime, you can keep up to date with her glamorous life on Facebook and Twitter and a good furtle around her blog Behind the Glitter is highly recommended too.

Tell her I sent you.

RS x

Burlesque Leamington Sparkles

May 14, 2012

Last month the Garter Lounge rolled back into our sometimes sleepy Spa town, with Darkteaser bringing together a troupe of  the loveliest and liveliest burlesque ladies to perform at The Assembly.

And as it was just a shimmy-shake away from my studio, not only would it have been a missed opportunity to decline the offer to photograph the action, it would have been downright rude.

Darkteaser UK burlesque star

The lady of the house – Darkteaser

It was the Garter Lounge’s third appearance In Leamington, though the first time it had been helmed by new ringmistress, Ophelia Bitz, who was just outstanding. Slick, soulful, funny and outrageous in all the right ways, I’m sure there’d be more shots of her in focus had she not had me laughing so much.

Burlesque compere Ophelia Bitz

The compere beyond compare – Ophelia Bitz

It’d been nearly a year since I had been out and covered a live show, so it was nice to be back scurrying about at the edge of the stage clicking away. The Garter Lounge is always a professionally orchestrated affair and whoever was operating the dry ice machine that night had certainly had his Weetabix.

Though what made for some instant atmosphere for the audience made my job of shooting through coloured fog that little bit harder. It was so thick during the first handful of acts it was actually quite hard to keep things sharp, though I’m actually really pleased with the saturated colours and all round moodiness of some of the resulting shots.

Raven Six and Bruise Violet on stae at Garter Lounge

Raven Six and her friends with glitter for brains |  Bruise Violet in red

Italian burlesque starlet Scarlett Martini

Scarlett Martini – bare faced Italian cheek

Darkteaser bathed in beautiful blue light

Suitably dark and suitably teasing

As a bit of a dressmaker myself I’m always in awe of the girls’ bespoke costumes. This delicate little fairy number was one of my favourites and I’m glad the dry ice had calmed down a bit by this point so I could capture some of the detail.

Burlesque fairy Emmanuelle Claire

Emmanuelle Claire – every inch the pre-Raphaelite Titania

Emmanuelle Claire fairy striptease

Magically making her clothes disappear in a cloud of fairy dust

With a couple of exceptions, I’d not seen any of these ladies perform before and sometimes I think it’d be nice to sit in the audience and just enjoy the show. These were proper quality acts.

Burlesque stars Gemma Sheree and Frankie Lynn

More eastern promise from Gemma Sheree | The doll-like Frankie Lynn

Burly Q gal Frankie Lynn

Frankie Lynn – all topped off with a bow

It wasn’t all elegant and etherial either. Mama Jenufa was one of my favourite performers at the last Garter Lounge and I’d heard tell of her Pat Butcher act but never seen it. Every sexy circus needs a clown and Mama really is a scream, ‘Pat’ was every bit as funny as I’d been led to believe and the ‘improvised’ earring tassel twirling a genius little touch. Her second turn as the clumsy, wannabe fan dancer proved another showcase for her physical comedy and quite rightly the loudest applause of the night were reserved for her.

Burlesque comedienne Mama Jenufa

The always brilliant, Mama Jenufa

The Assembly always looks the part with its art deco trappings, though it is a big place to fill. While the event drew a crowd of dedicated and vocal burlesque fans who knew they were in for a treat, I cant help but think that if this ace show had been transplanted into the middle of a city, it’d be packed to the rafters.

Burly Q lass Gemma Sheree

Her name was Gemma, Sheree was a showgirl…

Bruise Violet performs striptease

Bruise Violet, who treated the audience to a show tune, as well as all this…

Burlesque performer photographed by Raquel Rouge

Just, wow!

Scarlett Martini striptease act

One of the biggest draws of the night was Italian pin-up, Scarlett Martini

Scarlett Martin hit by the spotlight

Scarlett the starlet

Big congratulations go out again to my old mucker Darkteaser for putting together a wonderful show. The lady herself was on fine form and looked as good as I’ve ever seen her – those dark cascading locks styled by Pin Curls and Pompadours really suit her.

Darkteaser looks at camera

Darkteaser looks down the lens

I personally think it was the best I’ve been to and I’ll be releasing more pics closer to my exhibition in July. I had a great time and it was lovely to catch up with a few familiar faces, though I’m not going to gloss over the fact that I did feel a bit sad that Vanessa wasn’t at my side. I’m sure she was there in spirit.

These pics are for her.

RS x

Nice Crisp Images

April 2, 2012

After what feels like ages, it’s nice to focus a bit of attention on one of my latest big commercial jobs.

It was July when I first took a call about the booking, and October by the time we got in the studio, though finally, last week, the new Jonathan Crisp packaging was launched to the world.

And I’m pleased to say it was well worth the wait.

Snack packaging featuring photography by Rachel Spivey

The full range of four flavours

Capturing little slices of quirky British charm, with a nod to René Magritte, the shots see the eponymous Jonathan in various scenarios – picking apples with the aid of his brolly, sitting atop a five bar gate, in a deck chair under the shade of his umbrella and posing with a butcher’s bike and apron.

While we discussed it briefly, it was never really an option to shoot these on location – not only was the season against us, but the clean cut-out style didn’t warrant it. Any photographer will tell you that the more you can control the better, so, if you’re the type that likes to watch the making-ofs on your DVDs, you’ll be fascinated to discover that our stand-in apple tree consisted of a couple of well-chosen branches nailed to a post. However it was digitally enhanced in post production, George Lucas-style.

The gate was the real deal though.

Rather than build a prop gate from scratch it worked out cheaper to buy one from an architectural salvage yard and luckily my prop guys from V2 Display Solutions were on-hand to hoist it up to my second storey studio.

Getting props up the stairs at Rachel Spivey's studio

Lawrence and Dan from V2 gave five-star, great service | My boys go scrumping

And I was really quite taken with that bike. I could see myself on one of those with little Cecil the poodle riding up front in the basket. It’s a Pashley Delibike and made just down the road from me in Stratford-upon-Avon, which all adds to that quintessentially British vibe.

Pashley delibike

Pashley Delibke

The shoot went really smoothly. It’s always valuable to have clients in the room to give the nod as we go, so it was great that Suzy Broughton from Tayto could come along on the day. It was also a joy to work with Jump To, the creative agency behind the packaging redesign, and especially the delightful and charismatic Mark Glynne-Jones – who was on hand to art direct the shoot. As an agency, they do some really interesting stuff with artisan food and drink companies and their Food Funnel initiative is well worth a look if you are from that world.

Crisp brand website featuring images by Rachel Spivey Photographer

The Jonathan Crisp homepage

I really love this finished product, I’m very proud to have played a role in it and think the stage is certainly set for lots more adventures and potential flavours for Mr Crisp.

The packs perfectly capture the ‘keep calm and eat crisps’ spirit of the age and if they’re not a big hit at Jubilee street parties this summer, I’ll eat my bowler hat.

RS x

Sixteen Burlesque Performers and One Exhibitionist

March 5, 2012

It feels like ages since I’ve been out photographing burlesque-y people doing their thing on stage. Probably because it has been.

Though next month will change all that.

After a break of a year my old burly buddy Darkteaser is heading back to The Assembly in Leamington with her grand Garter Lounge show and, as ever, I’m proud to be involved as the event’s official photographer and sponsor.

And Mr S has done us proud on the promotional front again.

Darkteaser's Garter Lounge burlesque poster by Craig Spivey

It's a bit light, a bit dark, and always intricately choreographed – just like the poster

The line up looks great, with a fair few ladies I have yet to see perform – and this time around there’ll be more stalls, a late license and the opportunity to hang back and dance to the retro sounds of Mr Shellac afterwards.

If you still need a bit more convincing, go and have a peek at some of the past events to see what you’ve been missing! Tickets are £16 in advance and £20 on the door so look sharp and get yours here.

Burlesque headliner posters by Craig Spivey

This year's Garter Lounge headliners – Darkteaser, Missy Macabre and Scarlett Martini

And if a big night like this happening a stone’s throw away from the studio isn’t enough, the following weekend will take me to the Missy Malone and Friends Burlesque Review, just down the road in Cheltenham.

Missy’s toured her show all over the UK this year and received some fantastic reviews, so I was really flattered to be asked to come along and cover her hometown show at The Playhouse. It’s a lovely, intimate little theatre and I had a very jolly time at the last one. There are two shows on the Saturday, but they fill up quickly so don’t put it off, get your tickets from the box office on 01242 522852.

Missy Malone & Friends Burlesque Review poster 2012

She's tigger-like in her energy and has the outfit to match – the amazing Missy and friends

I’m really looking forward to shooting at both events, not only because it’s been so long since I saw the girls, but also because this summer I’ll be holding an exhibition to show off some of the results!

Rachel Spivey's photograhic studio in Leamington Spa

For two weeks in July I should probably take down the 'AGRI' bit

Warwick Open Studios (previously Warwick Arts Week) has been on the go for 12 years and is something I’ve always been keen to get involved in. So I’ve put my name down to be just one of the artists from all over Warwickshire opening their doors to the public. I dare say I’ll be plugging it some more nearer the time, but, for now, I have my artists page and lots of good intentions.

Hope to see some of you at the burly shows, if we’ve not met in person be sure to tug my sleeve and say ‘Hi’.

RS x

The Low Down on My Logo

February 27, 2012

Last week my husband took delivery of a parcel from America and excitedly waved the contents under my nose. It was my logo in a fancy-pants design book.

How cool is that?

Photographers logo appears in Logolounge Masterworks Type and Calligraphy logos

My logo as it appears in the Logolounge Masterworks Type and Calligraphy Logos book

Craig then proceeded to bounce off and put together an entry on his own little blog. Bless him.

Yes, its true.

Not only do we both each own a pair of Clarks polyveldts, we now have ‘his and hers’ matching blogs, though his is more of a look back at bits of work he has done over the years.

So anyway, he has compiled a sweet history of stuff he has done for me, of which this is a highlight…

The evolution of the Rachel Spivey brand

My various logos 1995 – 2007

So if you’re into that kind of thing, he goes into much more detail here.

Tell him I sent you.

RS x

Vanessa Reece 1975 – 2012

February 6, 2012
Vanessa Reece

Vanessa Reece (10th March 1975 – 5th February 2012)

Today I heard that my dear friend Vanessa has died.

One of the most talented make-up artists I have ever worked with, she never failed to make a model feel at ease and full of confidence.

And behind the scenes, her positivity was always doing the same for me.

Vanessa had been ill and talked openly online about her recent experiences of memory loss and being hospitalised with an undiagnosed condition, though only this week she’d received encouraging results from her latest brain scan and was looking forward to coming off her medication in time for a birthday drink.

This news has come only three days after the sudden death of my Dad, and it’s fair to say that these few words have taken some stringing together.

My thoughts are with Vanessa’s lovely Granny and my heart goes out to her 15-year-old son, Louis.

I feel privileged and proud to have counted V as one of my closest friends. I will really, really miss her.

RS x

Go Pro With Your Profile

January 23, 2012

For the last year or so I have been involved with a secret society of business ladies in Warwickshire and next month I am hooking up with them to help raise the profile of a few entrepreneurs.

And a bit of money for charity too.

Rachel Spivey Photographer corporate portrait event


Blogging, tweeting, and all the rest of it, are great ways low-cost ways for a small or start-up business to get its name out there, start talking to customers and meet like-minded professionals and new suppliers.

Heck, it’s worked for me.

But with that particular media’s emphasis on ‘social’, it’s often a good idea to show people who they are talking to.

Put a ‘face’ on the ‘book’, as it were.

So in conjunction with a recent Scary Women event on just that very subject, I am throwing open the doors of the studio on Wednesday 29th February and offering professional-quality head and shoulders shots for a minimum £10 donation to Kids Company.

They will be quick 20 minutes sessions, either on a plain studio background or in a naturally lit room set, and you’ll get a couple of images emailed straight to your inbox all ready to upload.

The ‘Scaries’ have had first dibs on the slots, so they are filling up fast, but if you’re running a small business in Warwickshire and would like to book a place, please drop Lisa a line at

Hope to see you there
RS x

Angel Rouge

December 21, 2011

I recently had the pleasure of working with burlesque starlet, Miss Von Vamp who also agreed to be the angel on my Christmas card this year.

Apologies if you haven’t received one, the chances are I don’t know your old-fashioned postal address, but please feel free to print out this blog entry and stick it on top of your mantelpiece.

Burlesque angel with a slipped halo

It’s another of Mr Spivey’s creations and beautifully works in the two Rs of the Raquel Rouge logo while the Vamp makes for a suitably sassy Christmas angel.

Photographer Rachel Spivey's Christmas card 2011

A proper Christmas card – winging its way to you with a first class Vamp

I first met with Miss Von Vamp when she came in and modeled at Pencils and Pin-ups in May, though rather than take a fee for her appearance she requested a shoot with me instead. It has taken a good while, and I hope she thinks her final set of images are worth the wait.

Film noir style photograph of Miss Von Vamp

That's why the lady is a vamp

Once the easy shot for the Christmas card, (and a delightful team lunch) was out of the way, we found the time to take a few slightly more sensuous pictures away from the plain background. I’m really happy with the film noir look we managed to achieve. The black and whites look ace, but there’s also something nice about Von Vamp’s red hair against the red velvet curtains.

Burly girl Miss Von Vamp photographed by Raquel Rouge in her Leamington Spa studio

One dangerous dame

Miss Von Vamp is quite the rising star of the burlesque scene and manages to fill her diary with lots of appearances around the country alongside studying for degree. She’s a great gal – really positive about everything and lots of fun to be around – although we did go all out to create some moody images that lived up to her name.

She’s also a much more prolific blogger than I am and wrote about her experience in the boudoir here.

Burlesque artist Miss Von VAmp reflected in a mirror

Lovely shot taken in the mirror

It’s nice to be winding down for Christmas now. I’m really looking forward to the break (although I do have a wedding on the 29th!) and having a bit of breathing space to reflect on the year just gone.

And plan for the next one.

To say 2011 has been hectic would be an understatement. I’ve done more weddings than ever and, although the burlesque scene has marched even further into the mainstream and brought more competition jumping on the bandwagon, the boudoir business has been as busy and enjoyable as it has always been. Even the commercial side of things has taken an upturn this year. Landing the Nokia job was great and I can’t wait to tell you about a some cool packaging work I have done with Jump To that will hit the shelves in the Spring.

Big love to everyone I have worked for and alongside this year. It’s been an absolute blast, though if you don’t mind I’m now going to retire with a glass of mulled wine and the telly remote.

Merry Christmas and all the best for the new year!

RS x

Hello Sailor!

November 28, 2011

All the nice girls love a sailor – some of the naughty ones do too – and I was thrilled to be commissioned recently to create some hot poster girl pics for Lucy – a real life forces sweetheart!

Lucy’s boyfriend Ben is a Leading Seaman and, in true pin-up tradition, she wanted to give him something special as a keepsake to take on his long tours away from her. Rather than hide them away in his bunk though, they’re so chuffed with the results, they’ve agreed to show them off here too.

1940s style forces sweetheart by LEamington boudoir photographer Raquel Rouge

Ahoy there!

I first met Lucy at one of the Garter Lounge shows at The Assembly and then again when the Evening of Burlesque came to the Royal Spa Centre last year. She’s a tattooist and recognised mine as a Valerie Vargas from across a crowded bar. We bonded while comparing ink and she swore she’d be back in touch. Sure enough she booked into the studio months in advance and used the lead time to plan her shots and collect together all of her outfits and accessories.

One key shot we wanted to attempt was inspired by the famous Gil Elvgren ‘Ankles Aweigh’ illustration. Nautical pin-ups don’t get more iconic than that. While old Gil is the go to guy for these kind of poses and there are plenty of talented people out there doing great photographic interpretations of his work, for me trying to recreate those images down to the finest detail just becomes a technical exercise, so, with a nod to his set-up, we went about creating the sort of hyper-real image that the Hollywood studios would release as publicity for their new Technicolour productions.

Gil Elvgren classic recreated by Rachel Spivey

Amazing what you can do with a stock image and a little dollop of photoshop

Ben has done tours of the Falklands and the Gulf and has served on HMS Edinburgh and more recently HMS Gloucester. His uniform cap teamed with a blue and white striped bikini and Lucy’s impressive tats just looked amazing. Vanessa, as always, did a top job on her make up and Sinead created her hair to work with and without the hat – but Lucy was a fab model – confident and happy to pose away while I clicked the shutter.

Pin-up girl's tribute to her sailor on HMS Gloucester

Ship-shape and Bristol fashion

We took so many good shots it was hard to edit them down and, as Lucy gave us a free rein to be creative in post production, we got to try a few things out. With the whole Navy theme and her tattoos I figured it’d be cool to put her on the Sailor Jerry’s rum bottle…

Cheesecake pin-up Sailor Jerry style

Yo ho ho!

Lucy put a lot of thought into her shoot and it really shows. As well as the white background shots, we did some richer, more sensuous ones – I love this one of her posing with one of the letters Ben sent her from his ship.

Sailor's girl reads a letter from her man – elegant and high class boudoir photography by Rachel Spivey, Leamington Spa

Lucy and her ship to shore letter home

In the space of a few hours we did ‘cheeky’, ‘wistful’ ‘romantic’ and still found time to shoot this.

Sexiest. Pirate. Ever.

Tattooed pin-up by Warwickshire boudoir photographer Raquel Rouge

Saucy Nancy!

As well as collecting them, Lucy has been a qualified tattooist in her own right for around five years and is currently working at Passion and Pain in Leamington. She cites Jeff Gogue and Claudia De Sabe as her influences but, from what I have seen of her work, seems to be developing a nice style all of her own.

Leamington-based tattoo artist Lucy

Lucy with Ben and some of her work

I’m so glad that Lucy and Ben are happy with their pics, they were a real joy to do, and if you are the wife or girlfriend of someone in the forces and fancy doing something similar, be sure to mention it to get a special rate on a shoot.

I know Lucy and Ben are looking forward to spending their first Christmas together in the same house after enduring a fair few apart. I wish them both the very best of the season and also hope that those men and women serving in the forces, who won’t get to be home with their loved ones, have an equally peaceful and merry time.

RS x

Burlesque Bible – My Life in Burlesque

October 22, 2011

After having one of my shots included in the first issue of Burlesque Bible, I’m over a giant crescent prop moon to have received a double page feature this time around.

It covers how I got into photography, the burlesque scene and how Raquel Rouge came about, but if you click the image below a couple of times it should magnify enough for you to read it yourself.

Rachel Spivey Raquel Rouge feature in Burleseque Bible

The real thing is available from WH Smiths or direct from them here. It’s a great magazine and I’m so glad that it is looking like it might be a regular thing.

Hats (and other things) off to them!

RS x