Biography by Dave Cymerman
William Albert Allard is a second generation Swedish-American, born in Minneapolis in 1937. He attended the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts with hopes of becoming a writer. After one year he transferred to the University of Minnesota, enrolling in the journalism program. After graduating in 1964 with a double major in journalism and photography, with portfolio in hand, he headed east to ply his newly learned trade.
"It was easier in those days to get started in magazine photojouurnalism. There were fewer people in the field and more magazines," Allard said on his web site regarding his insights into his work.
Allard met Bob Gilka, then National Geographic's director of photography, while in Washington, D.C., and was offered an internship. As an intern he was given several assignments. Notably, his photographs of the Amish in Lancaster, PA, earned him a longer stay at National Geographic. The article, "Amish Folk: Plainest of Pennsylvania's Plain People," was published in August of 1965. It is regarded as landmark in the photographic evolution of National Geographic. His work led to a full time position with the magazine
In 1967,after two years, Allard resigned from his position. He felt that as a staff member of National Geographic, he couldn't "...contribute to the issues of the time, such as the Vietnam War and racial tensions in the South. Remember, National Geographic in the sixties was very different from what it is now. Photographically it was a bit of a backwater compared to Life and Look."
He continued to do assignments for National Geographic, but as a freelance photographer. Allard continued to publish his work not only in the U.S., but in Europe as well.
In the seventies he continued to publish, but during this period, he also kept going to America's old west. In 1982, He published his first book, "Vanishing Breed," a photographic essay documenting the people and places he came across in the old west.
Throughout the 1980's, Allard continued to freelance, and managed to have an exhibition displayed, "Faulkner's Mississippi," which was featured in National Geographic's March 1989 issue.
In 1989 he published his second work, "The Photographic Essay," a retrospective of his work. More and more, he continued to work for National Geographic, eventually leading to his second full time position at the magazine.
His latest work has been "Sicily: Italy Apart" in August of 1995, "Essence of Province" in September of 1995, and "Peru Begins Again" in May of 1996. Currently, two of his essays are on line: High Noon and Blues Highway. Both can be viewed on the National Geographic website.