I wasn’t going to add anything about Cornwall as it has been a bit of a bitter pill to swallow. However after a couple of weeks of stewing over it I feel like I should say something. Mostly to put some closure to my time with the company. Cornwall publishing was a company that I worked with for over twenty years. The owner, Dorothy Horton started the company as of this writing about twenty eight years ago. For those of you that subscribed to Gardens West, Gardens West (Prairie Edition) Gardens Central, or Gardens East will have undoubtedly seen my work in all of these publications as I was the principal photographer. Since Cornwall is no longer around I guess I can be frank about my experience with the company.
In 2012 Dorothy Horton decided to call it quits and retire. It is no secret that Dorothy could be a hard person to work for. In the twenty eight years that the magazine ran over two hundred people had been either fired or let go in some manner or another, need I say more. However in Dorothy’s defense she treated me exceptionally well and I was very sad to see her leave. We often had great discussions about family, politics and of course the magazine, Dorothy was my friend and supported my role within her company with generosity and respect. I would even go as far as to say that without Dorothy’s support over the years I would probably not be a full time photographer today. Dorothy wanted nothing more than to produce the best gardening magazine that she could and surround herself with people that cared as much as she did to reach that vision. The magazine(s) was a great all around gardening periodical and I was proud to have my work showcased between its covers.
When Dorothy retired all of the Cornwall assets went to her son David Mulroney (from what I know anyway). I didn’t know David very well except through talking with Dorothy. From my limited dealings with David he seemed like a likable guy who wanted the magazine to succeed and wanted all of us to succeed as well. For anyone in publishing you will undoubtedly know that the industry is not doing particularly well. The magazine pie is getting smaller and magazines are scrambling to find new ways to sell their product to readers and more importantly advertisers. Gardens Central and Gardens East where not doing well so the two where combined to make one. Add sales where down and I guess Cornwall was losing money (I say guess because I was never actually told this until after the magazine went belly up). Unfortunately this is where things fall apart. David Mulroney is not a publisher he is a lawyer. Unfortunately I have yet to meet a practicing lawyer that has any ability to think outside of the box, have abstract thought or show any sign of morality, it is all business. From my experience as soon as you mix a lawyer in to any kind of artistic endeavor it is doomed to fail. Now I know that there are lawyers that will take issue with my ramblings (I also have a chip on my shoulder) but as a whole I have yet to meet a lawyer that can perform any kind of creative thinking. The lawyers that I have met that have any creativity are no longer practicing law. The reason I mention this creative thinking is that for the longest time the magazine felt as if it was on cruise control, kind of like the Titanic heading towards its doom. Everyone that worked in the office wanted change but didn’t have the power to induce it. The magazine needed direction it wasn’t getting any other than orders from David to garner more advertisements. I didn’t work regularly in the office nor was I a full time employee, I was contracted, however from my observations David had absolutely no interest in the magazine and from my perspective was only really keeping it afloat because it was his mothers legacy. The unfortunate part to this is that not once did he offer the magazine to the people that cared about it, the people that worked there. It’s true that Cornwall may have folded regardless but there was absolutely no effort on Davids part to garner possible solutions from anyone that worked there. David Mulroney did not have any vision, he let the ship sink and unfortunately sink with everyone on board except himself. There was absolutely no transparency between himself or the people that worked at Cornwall. Not once was I or anyone else approached to help give possible solutions, or given any information about the rapid impeding doom of the magazine.
Cornwall went bankrupt with the usual indiscriminate procedure that you might expect in a larger corporations. I went to the office and was informed by a lawyer that the magazine was bankrupt. David was a no show with many excuses. The real reason being that he was told not to show because of possible hostility from us. Very poor judgement in my opinion since all of the several people that worked at Cornwall were friends of Dorothy and ultimately her family, including David. David Mulroney didn’t show up because he was/is a coward.
So there you have it in a nutshell. I worked for several months in the summer traveling across Canada taking photographs for a magazine that doesn’t exist. I am out thousands of dollars. So yes it has been a bitter pill to swallow and yes I do have a chip on my shoulder. It was not a great way to end an otherwise superb working relationship with a magazine that I and everyone else at Cornwall believed in. We all worked hard to produce the best magazine that it could possibly be and it went down the tube because of a man with absolutely no vision, creativity or morality and that is a shame.