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Matinee: William Albert Allard Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

30 July 2016

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 146th in our series of Saturday matinees today with three clips about William Albert Allard, starting with Retrospective of a Street Photographer.

In this nearly six-minute clip from the PBS NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown interviews National Geographic photographer William Albert Allard about his nearly 50-year career as a photojournalist.

The occasion was the publication of Allard's Five Decades, A Retrospective.

Allard, the son of a Swedish immigrant, was born in 1937 in Minneapolis, Minn. He studied at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts and the University of Minnesota before getting an internship at National Geographic. Just how that happened is the first story he tells Brown.

"Did you know what you were getting into?" Brown asks.

After being broke for five months, Allard was hoping to land a real job but he took the internship the magazine offered on the hunch they'd want to keep him around. And he was right. He has contributed to 42 Geographic articles as a staff, freelance and contract photographer and writer during his career.

He began photographing in black-and-white, excited to see the image come up in his darkroom tray. But his professional career has been entirely in color, unusual for photographers of his generation. It took him a year to acclimate himself to color, he tells Brown.

"How much freedom did you have?" Brown asks about Allard's various assignments.

Total freedom, Allard says. "The way you get that is if you start off well," he adds, citing one of his first assignments, which was to photograph the Amish.

The magazine had assigned another photographer to the story but he'd met with the bishop who had forbidden him to photograph the community. Allard, in contrast, went to a bar, met some young people, got introduced to a rock quarry owner and started taking photos of his new friends.

His "people photos" from that story encouraged a new approach to photography at the National Geographic.

The interview is illustrated with his images, showing exactly what Allard means as he recalls the high points of his career.

Not to be outdone by the NewsHour, National Geographic subsequently published a short profile of Allard in its Proof video series in which he describes his approach to taking photographs:

"You have to care," he says. "You can't do superior work if you're indifferent."

You're responsible, he says, for every inch of space in that photo. An inch this way or that in your position can make all the difference in an image.

And he does have a discriminating eye, as this short (and good-humored) photo critique of images at the 2015 Photography at the Summit Nature Workshop demonstrates:

We're happy to report that Allard hasn't hung up his camera strap. This weekend he's leading a workshop at the Tsuut'ina Nation's 42nd Annual Rodeo and Pow-wow near Calgary in Canada.

But we have a hunch he didn't bringing his dozen or so workshop students into a bar there.

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