Sunny Snaps operated in a number of different locations taking walking pictures. Like Spotlight Photos, who operated all over the UK, the firm is a bit of a mystery. It is hard to know if they were a franchise operation or one business which opened a number of different towns or suburbs on the south coast, with perhaps a contract with a local processing lab.
All Sunny Snaps cards are postcard size and very distinctive, due to an illustrated panel at the bottom (or side), unique the the company. This featured the Sunny Snaps name, often the year the photograph was taken, the location (though many just say “South Coast”) and a little pen and ink sketch, usually with a London landmark and a seaside image; deckchairs, seagulls and the like. There is also space for the hand-written negative reference number.
A lot of the Sunny Snaps cards are very good technically too (“The best all British walking picture postcard” according to their envelopes!) and this, together with the nostalgic look of the designs, makes them popular with collectors (and may have inspired the title of Bradford Photography Museum’s – RIP – exhibition of beach photography in 2008).
The oldest dated card I have seen is from 1931, the latest 1949. 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 1939 the walkies were priced at just 7d each, which was lower than many similar firms. Perhaps this contributed to their demise. There is mention of the firm being struck of the register of companies in August 1957 which normally happens when people retire and wish to formally end a business. The two post-WW2 Sunny Snaps I have seen were by a photographer working in Lewisham and one is of his own wife, but these are the only later cards I have ever seen.
In terms of location, I’ve seen Sunny Snaps cards taken on the south coast in Worthing (as early as 1931), Littlehampton (the oldest is 1933 – both places are close to one another), Bognor Regis (as early as 1934, where cards could be collected at Fuller’s newsagents on Lansdowne Place, see the envelope above – though the street seems to no longer exist), and Shoreham in 1936. Further afield, examples from Hunstanton, and Lowestoft survive. They also operated in London (the oldest so far is 1932). If you know of any more do get in touch. They may have had a London headquarters, possibly in Houslow (another walkie from London can be seen on the site, the street as yet not identified).
Amongst the Worthing cards, several show the same Sunny Snaps shop in the background (see the 1936 and 1936 cards above), which was at the sea-side end of South Street in Pavillion Parade, a large shopping block (with apartments above) built probably in the 1920s. South Road emerged opposite Worthing Pier, so the shop – which was 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, but 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 elsewhere in Worthing including Chapel Street and other spots yet to be identified.
The 1931 Worthing image above for example shows the corner of a Kodak sign top right, so this may be another Sunny Snaps outlet. 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.
The London locations are proving difficult to identify but seem to be in different suburbs. I’ve no idea where the 1935 card (bottom right above) 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. Two Sunny Snaps taken on Park Parade in Harlesden have been identified, taken in 1934 and 1937. These show schoolboys from Willesden County Grammar School, who bought the prints. A Sunny Snaps taken near Shepherd’s Bush tube station is also posted on the site. Ladbroke Grove has been identified a site where Sunny Snaps worked in 1935 and we’ve also seen one taken on Lewisham High Street and another near Leicester Square tube station, which would be the most central location to date. A Sunny Snaps taken on Blackheath has also come to light. The Lewisham and Blackheath images are just post-WW2, but may have been by an independent operator using the old Sunny Snaps system. The latest to surface are three Sunny Snaps which have now been identified as Barking Road, Canning Town, E13, near to Trinity Church. These date from 1937 and 1939.
The above is another very typical Sunny Snaps image, this time from Bognor Regis. If as is beginning to seem likely, negative numbers were kept sequentially this indicates over 15,000 walkies taken that year so far.
There are also Sunny Snaps which people have sent me taken in Shoreham by The Sea on the site, and at Littlehampton. One was found in the collection of Maurice Wilkinson which may be from Worthing, and another was taken on Worthing seafront as well.
Lastly a firm operating as Sunny Snaps from a kiosk on Colwyn Bay pier was probably not related, but just used the same name. They supplied much smaller prints stamped only on the back.
My thanks to Paul Godfrey, Brett Payne 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 their history do get in touch.