Feb 21, 2008 - Sale 2137

Sale 2137 - Lot 332

Price Realized: $ 4,320
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,500 - $ 3,500
(PHOTOGRAPHY.) PARKS, GORDON. The Welfare Office [The Fontanelle family]. Silver print, 12 1/2 x 18 inches, matted and framed. [New York, 1968]

Additional Details

The Fontanelle family, Bessie and Kenneth, little Richard, Norman Jr, and Ellen at the Poverty Board in New York City in 1967. The story of the Fontanelles was tragic in the extreme. "It was difficult," Parks said, "the husband was unemployed, the family had no food, it was winter time, but the kids couldn't attend school because they had no winter clothes. And it was difficult not to, immediately, being in my position, take money in, take food in, to ease their situation. Because the minute you do that you've lost your story. So you pray and hope that you can get your story over as quickly as possible, and that there will be a response from the public." This is exactly what happened, but before money poured in from the public, Parks had to stand back and and watch the family suffer. With the funds LIFE and its readers contributed to the Fontanelles, a small house was bought for the family on Long Island as a refuge from the filth and chaos of the Harlem tenement. Three months after they moved in, the father (drunk at the time) burned the house down by dropping a lit cigarette on the family's new sofa. "The father died in the fire; little Kenneth, one of my favorites died in the fire. Little Norman died mysteriously two years later, the other little girl [sucking her thumb in the image shown here] died from AIDS, as did two of her sisters. The whole family was destroyed," Parks observed. This photograph appeared in LIFE Magazine's "60 Years of LIFE, Photographs that changed the World."