The son of a Swedish immigrant, William Albert Allard studied at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts and the University of Minnesota with the hope of becoming a writer. Transferring to University of Minnesota after a only year, he enrolled in the journalism program. He graduated in 1964 with a double major in journalism and photography.
Looking for work in the field of photojournalism, Allard met Bob Gilka, then National Geographic's director of photography, while in Washington, D.C., and was offered an internship. In 1967, after just two years, Allard resigned from his position at National Geographic, feeling that he was unable to contribute to the issues of the time, such as the Vietnam War in a way that it seemed possible at other magazines such as Life Magazine.
In 1982, Allard published his first book, "Vanishing Breed," a photographic essay documenting the "old American west". There are about 100 photographs in this collection, taken in cowboy country from Mexico to Montana during the years 1965-1980. A few are landscapes; most are of cowboys, some Native Americans, a few women and children. Allard has also included photographs of a rural Hutterite community in Montana. There are rodeo pictures and scenes of roundup and of night-life, men either gathered around a campfire or hanging out in bars. A brief foreword is provided by Montana novelist Thomas McGuane.
Allard has also worked as a contributor to Magnum Photos. He is one of the few photographers of his generation whose entire professional body of work is in color.