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Jonathan Arundel, Happy Days
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Jonathan Arundel, Happy Days

Part diary, part parody, new launch Happy Days is a cheery record of 2020. Originally conceived to present an alternative to our manic pre-pandemic lives, the magazine ended up being created in between lockdowns last year, when the everyday acts it showed had become even more mundane.

London-based photographer and creative director Jonathan Arundel tells us about the origins of his magazine as he shares his week ahead.

Tell us about your typical Monday morning
I live in Canonbury, North East London. Mornings usually start early-ish with a cycle up to Alexander Place - it has great view across London up there and changes everyday day depending on the weather / season. I used to cycle across town pre-pandemic, so this ride replaces that! Then usually back to the house for shower, breakfast and cup of tea. I try not to check technology until I start work at 9am, NTS radio on in the background – I hate working in silence! Coffee around 10.30.

Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
Currently I’m working from home which has its positives and negatives. I’m lucky as our flat has a huge back window that overlooks ours and next doors garden, so there is plenty of natural light and greenery (essential).

Outside of Happy Days I work on commercial shoots, so I spend a lot of time checking in with my team, stylists, producers, re-touchers etc. I generally spend a lot of time emailing, chatting, calling and planning! If I’m not working from home, I’ll be on set or in the darkroom printing.

Are you feeling optimistic about 2021?
Ha yes! there is a lot to look forward to. Basic things like seeing friends, family and generally more freedom to live life. London feels a strange place in lockdown - you start to question why you live here, until it’s a sunny day and everyone emerges outside, the energy soon re-ignites, and you remember why you are here.

Creatively there’s great things to come, it feels like everyone has had some time to re-charge the batteries and re-focus. Anything that was a waste of time will be left behind in the pre-pandemic world, it feels re-freshing.

Which magazine do you first remember?
When I was younger, I was into sports magazines (mountain biking, skating, snowboarding) but they weren’t exactly aesthetically driven, more or a concoction of photoshop effects! It wasn’t until I was art college that I discovered independent art / fashion / design magazines. A local news agent was selling Fantastic Man which really opened by eyes to art direction, photography, typography, layout etc. I’ve been a collector ever since.

Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
I’ve really enjoyed reading weekend supplements over the last year, there’s something about reading something that feels so in tune with what has just happened over the week just gone, it feels relatable.

I also really love Atmos magazine, the state of the environment is at the moment terrifying. Atmos seems to have been able to combine highly creative content with informative climate and cultural information. I’ve learnt loads from it just by reading there Instagram!

Describe your magazine in three words.
Low-fi, witty, DIY !

What led you to launch the magazine now?
I guess I wanted my own platform for self-expression, but also a passion project. When I first thought about the concept for the magazine, we were living in the pre-pandemic world where everything was done at 100mph, I wanted to capture the opposite and create photographic stories themed around day-to-day life, stuff that everyone can relate to – going to shops, weekend chores, DIY etc. It’s funny as then the pandemic hit, and we all slowed down started enjoying the smaller things in life! Above all I wanted to put something out there that’s fun and positive hence the name Happy Days!

How did you go about doing it?
First of all, you have to come up with an idea that you feel is worth putting a lot of time and energy into. Some great advice I was given; if you can’t sum up in a sentence what the magazine is about then you probably need to keep thinking.

You need to wear many hats when starting your own publication. I’m lucky as before to photography and art direction I worked as a graphic designer which means I can shoot, design, commission and generally curate the whole creative direction of the magazine on my own.

Trying to collaborate in the middle of global pandemic definitely had its challenges, ideas had to be scaled back, shoots were postponed or cancelled, financially a lot of people just didn’t have the money to work on editorial projects that don’t pay. We ended up shooting all the stories between September – October and just got it out for the end of 2020. Launching a pilot issue with magazines shops and galleries closed is never ideal but it felt a huge achievement in a crazy year.

Will there be a second issue?
Yes! It’s in the making as I write this, we’ve had an amazing response to the first issue and already have a great line up of contributors.

What makes you happy?
A hard one to answer as I think this constantly evolves as you grow up. For me in general I think I feed of the energy of what’s around me, be that friends, music or nature. You need to be able to wake up and be inspired to go out there and do something that you care about.

Career wise, I’ve kind of worked out there are three key thing you need. You need to be engaged (using your brain) in that you are doing, you need to care (about what or who you are working on / for), and you need to be surrounded by great people. If one of those is off it generally all goes out the window.

Other quick happy wins. Being outside, sunshine and expanding your skillset.

What’s going to be the highlight of this coming week for you?
Who knows! It’s one of those in between weeks where there are no big fireworks planned. I’m sure something unexpected will happen!


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