Sunny Snaps operated in a number of different locations taking walking pictures. Like Spotlight Photos, the firm is a bit of a mystery and I do not know if they were a franchise or simply a business which opened a number of different towns or suburbs on the south coast, with perhaps one processing lab covering a few locations.
All Sunny Snaps cards are very distinctive, thanks to a panel at the bottom featuring the company name, often with the year the photograph was taken (and sometimes the location, though many of their cards just say “South Coast”). This panel is very distinctive and unique to Sunny Snaps. The little pen and ink sketches usually feature a London landmark and a seaside image; deckchairs, seagulls and the like. There is also space for the negative reference number to be hand-written.
A lot of the Sunny Snaps cards are very good technically too and this together with the nostalgic look of the designs makes them popular with collectors (and perhaps inspired the title of Bradford Media Museum’s exhibition of beach photography a few years ago).
The oldest dated card I have seen is from 1931, the latest 1940. This suggests they set up business as the walking picture craze really took off, but struggled to carry on (as did other walking picture firms) once the war began.
In terms of location, I’ve seen Sunny Snaps cards taken in Worthing, Littlehampton (both places close to one another), Bognor Regis, Hunstanton, Lowestoft and London. The latter location along with the sketches on the coastal cards, suggests they might have had a London headquarters.
Amongst the cards, several showed the same Sunny Snaps shop in the background (see the 1936 and 1936 cards above). Research shows this to be in Worthing at the bottom end of South Street in Pavillion Parade, a large shopping block (with apartments above) built probably in the 1920s. South Road met the seafront directly opposite Worthing Pier, so the shop – which was also on the corner of an arcade – was easy for everyone to find. It was run by Somers Tobacconist. I do not know if the shop had a processing operation on site or the films were taken elsewhere for developing and printing. The shop also sold films and offered a developing service for customers’ own snaps.
By positioning themselves so close to the shop, cameramen would have been able to tell customers where to go to see the photographs later in the day. Sunny Snaps cameramen also operated in other streets in Worthing which have yet to be identified.
The 1931 image for example shows the corner of a Kodak sign top right, so this may be another Sunny Snaps outlet. I’ve no idea where the 1935 card taken in London was snapped, though it is almost like a clandestine spy photograph. There is a large park across the road so maybe someone can work out where it is. As for the Worthing Sunny Snaps shop, in recent years the sign for the Arcade entrance has been removed, but otherwise the scene is very recognisable in this colour shot taken from roughly the same position over seventy years later.
My thanks to Paul Godfrey and Colin Harding for the loan of images, others are from our own collection. If you have any cards by this firm or know more about the history do get in touch.