Home Front cover Photoessays LIFE FORCE
The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay “A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
Feb 2016 back issue
Five Decades A retrospective and a memoir
by William Albert Allard
When my last book, WILLIAM ALBERT ALLARD: Five Decades, came out in 2010, I’d contributed as a photographer and a writer to my profession starting in 1964, continuing through the 1970s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and into the new millennium.  Now, I somewhat amazingly find myself working into my sixth decade.  And there is one thing that stands out to me as I look back at where I’ve been and where I am now:  I love it every bit as much now if not more than when I was a 26-year-old married man with four children and a photographic internship at National Geographic Magazine in Washington, D.C.  Several days after receiving my bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in the spring of 1964 I kind of came in over the transom into a place at the top of the profession.  And I stayed there. In 1964 I didn’t know much about anything then other than I wanted to be a magazine photographer and if I couldn’t be that then I’d be a writer, probably for a newspaper somewhere.  But that photographic internship led to a contract which led to a photographer staff position for a while and then to a long freelance career and back again to a staff position and now,
fifty-two years later, once again a freelance. How very lucky was I, really, when I think about it now? I’m sometimes asked to speak to young aspiring photojournalism students at a university or college, or some high school students who may have no idea what they want to be because they either haven’t thought about it much or are in that often natural state of mind of a young person who just wants to have a good time and may very possibly think that necessitates getting out the house, away from home.  What I will invariably tell all of them, no, rather what I will wish for all of them, is that when the time comes when they must seek out a way to make a living, that they will find something they truly love to do.  It’s not about money, I’ll tell them.  Of course, you want to have a decent place to make your bed, to call your home; you want a car that will get you where you need to go.  And, God knows these days, especially, you’ll need to make some kind of payment on that student loan you’re probably burdened with.  But most of all, you need to find something that you love to do and if you’re blessed with the opportunity to make a decent living at it then you’re far and away one of the lucky ones.  I know because I am, too. There are so many people out there who are waiting now, for that time to retire, to quit what they’ve been doing in order to do something they more enjoy, whether it’s fishing, golfing, gardening, or just sofa sitting in front of a giant screen television.  And that may in fact constitute perfect happiness for them. I hope it does.  I’ve been one of the lucky ones who has been in love with my profession and art and can honestly say the word “retirement” has never been within my vocabulary.  How can you stop what you love to do if you’re not forced to?  Seeing and making pictures with my cameras and with words will always be something I think I’ll need to do. The Five Decades book, like most of my books, is a combination of my work in words and pictures.  I think that is what gives all of my books their personalities.  When you look at my pictures of my Hutterite friends in Montana you also hear me speak of them, their beliefs, their way of living that is so different from mine and probably yours.  When you look at my pictures of the American West and the cowboy, you learn about some of those men I’ve know as individuals, the skills they bring to their work in that vast country in which they exist, their sense of doing something the right way; their sense of humor.  From my work in France and Italy you learn about my love for the light I find in my European wanderings; my joy of strolling the streets of Paris as if walking through a series of one-act plays. And in Peru you learn how serendipity plays a role not just in searching for pictures but how it can suddenly change one’s life in the most personal of ways as it did mine.  My book Five Decades, is both a retrospective and a memoir.  It reflects some of the best of my work done since I begin as a photographic intern at National Geographic Magazine and it shows the love I have had and always will have for the making of pictures and the telling of some of the stories behind them.  I love books and believe them to be the finest outlet for a still photographer.  An exhibit of fine prints in a good gallery is very nice but momentary; it goes up for thirty days and then it comes down.  A finely designed and printed book is a thing to hold and enjoy at one’s leisure; something to contemplate without time limits.  It becomes a legacy of sorts.  At least I like to think of it as such.  I hope all who see and read WILLIAM ALBERT ALLARD: Five Decades will agree.
Basque men listening to a poet, Sare, France, 1967.
Cloud 9 Bar, Elko, Nevada, 1979.
Amish boy with guinea pig, Lancaster County Pennsylvania, 1964.
Hank Irby, Marks, Mississippi, 1968. 
Eduardo Ramos with his dead sheep, Puno Peru, 1981.
Tanya and Edouard, Paris, 1988.
Basque girls running home, Behorleguy, France, 1967.
Girl smoking, Au Gamain de Paris restaurant, Le Marais, Paris,  2002.
Henry Gray, rancher, Arizona, 1970.
Acosia Red Elk, Indian princess at rodeo, Pendleton, Oregon, 1998.
IL buckaroo Stan Kendall at the bar, Mountain City, Nevada, 1979.
Man emerging from shadows, Chincheros, Peru, 1985.
Terrace of La Tartine wine bar, Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 2002.
Ungaro models backstage, Paris, 1988.
Street artists, Paris, 1986.
Violin shop, Cremona, Italy, 2001.
Smoke Daddy blues bar, Jimmy Lee Robinson foreground, Chicago, 1997.
Untouchable women in rock quarry, Bihar, India, 2002.
Stephanie Stahl at bat, Surprise Creek Hutterite Colony, Stanford, Montana, 2005.
Benedetta Bucellato, Sicily, 1994.
Back to current issue