A few miles south of Soledad, California, not far from the Salinas river, George Milton and Lennie Small arrive at a ranch. Itinerant workers who have been forced to flee their last town, they are assessed by the boss – an unnamed figure in a Stetson hat, high-heeled boots and spurs; unlike them, he is no labouring man. ‘What stake you got in this guy?’ he asks George. ‘I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy.’ I was reminded of the scene earlier this year, in the week of Trump’s inauguration. I was on a bus in North London, when the driver pulled to a stop and went across the road to help a woman who had collapsed. Some passengers got angry. ‘What’s he doing helping someone else?’ one of them barked. In 2014, OCR (the major exam-awarding body in the UK) announced that it would be scrapping John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men from the GCSE English syllabus. Other American texts, such as The Crucible and To Kill a Mockingbird, were also to be dropped. Michael Gove, then the education secretary, complained about the ‘narrowness’ of a syllabus that he went on to make even narrower. He was disappointed that 90 per cent of candidates were studying Of Mice and Men. I’ve taught the book to pupils of all abilities and I’m always struck by its power to engage and move them.
Francesca Woodman’s early death, at the age of 22, has cast a long shadow over her work. In the preceding years (her father gave her a camera when she was 13), especially those spent at Rhode Island School of Design and in New York, she produced a wealth of images: there are more than 10,000 negatives. This leaves a problem for her estate (her parents, George and Betty Woodman, are both artists) and her curators: it has been left to others to select, group and edit her archive. Eight hundred prints have been made, of which fewer than two hundred have been exhibited.