William Albert Allard


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William Albert Allard

Considered a pioneer in color photography, photographer and writer William Albert Allard has been a major force at National Geographic Magazine for more than fifty years. He attended the Minneapolis School of Fine Art and the University of Minnesota prior to coming to National Geographic Magazine as a photographic intern in 1964. He is one of the very few of his generation whose entire body of work is in color. Among his Geographic essays, some of them landmarks in the magazine, are his work on minor league baseball; black blues music; William Faulkner’s Mississippi; Sicily; the Hutterites of Montana; the Seine River of central Paris; extensive work on the American West and the cowboy, as well as his initial work on the Amish of Pennsylvania as a summer intern. The Amish story along with additional people oriented essays early in his career that exhibited an intimacy not previously seen in the magazine have been credited as having changed the look of National Geographic.

A praised teacher, he has conducted workshops throughout the U.S. and is a regular faculty member at the annual Photography At The Summit workshop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, conducted by former National Geographic Director of Photography, Rich Clarkson. Allard has also taught in Cuba, Italy, and France. Allard’s prints can be found in numerous museums and private collections. In 2004 he had a one-man exhibit of his work at the Tehran Museum of Modern Art, the first exhibit in Iran by an American artist since 1979. He had more images in the 125th National Geographic Magazine Anniversary Exhibit in Los Angeles at the Annenberg Space for Photography in 2013 than any other photographer.

A superb photographer of people, Allard is known as a “street shooter” as well as a renowned documentary portraitist who often uses the available light found in a hotel room or the subject’s home environment that he makes into his “studio.” Allard’s landmark images are often that because of intimacy. He says, “I try to look into a face, not just at it.” Allard’s goal as a portfolio reviewer is to help the aspiring photographer to see better, not with the idea of becoming the very best photographer out there but with the goal of becoming better tomorrow than one was yesterday and is today. With that kind of focus much can be attained. Allard brings humor as well as candor to his critiques. He finds those images he considers “interesting failures” to be of great importance because one learns from one’s mistakes and if the mistake is interesting it often reflects a special perception and feeling from the photographer’s mind and possibly the heart. And that’s where all the best pictures start.

Allard has published six books of his words and pictures. His first, VANISHING BREED, was nominated for The American Book Award and received the Leica Medal of Excellence in 1982 as well as the National Cowboy Hall of Fame Western Heritage Wrangler Award for Outstanding Art Book of 1982. In 2002 he received the National Press Photographers Association Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award that names him “One of the most heralded photographers of our time.” In 2010 he was the first recipient of the “Photographer’s Photographer Award for advancing the possibilities of our medium,” an award voted for him by his peers, those photographers who contribute to the National Geographic, all of whom are members of The Photo Society.

William Albert Allard’s careful and candid analysis of my work and his guidance made me realize where my photographic strengths are and helped me improve my vision and gain confidence in my work. As a teacher, he can draw from a wealth of photographic experience, an uncanny feeling for composition and color and the ability to clearly communicate his ideas and opinions. If you are looking for help in discovering and further developing your photographic strengths, Bill is the right guy. Carsten Bockermann

Whenever I start to walk away from a scene I have been photographing I hear the words of Bill Allard in my head saying, “Did you work it, did you take it apart?” So before I turn my attention to something else I look again and see if I really did work the scene. If that is not enough, the next thing I hear Bill Allard saying in my head is “Push yourself, don’t take the easy shots.” These seemingly simple instructions given to me by Bill Allard at a National Geographic workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2010 changed the direction of my photography and ultimately changed the direction of my life. Critiques, ideas and suggestions from Bill Allard continue to elevate my photography and drive me to strive for something more, or as Bill would say to “hone my vision.” Bill doesn’t just take great photographs. He teaches others how to see, how to select, how to look for details in the vastness and most importantly, how to tell stories. Bill continues to mentor me today and there is no greater joy than to have him tell you that your photograph has a sense of grace. Grace is what Bill Allard’s work is all about. Diana Robinson