Iconic Photos

William Albert Allard’s West

National Geographic named it one of the “greatest photographs of the American West.” David Schonauer, the famed editor-in-chief of American Photo wrote, “there is a fine line between cliche and archetype….. [this is] the latter,” noting that the photo reminded him of the elegiac song, “The Street of Laredo.” The photographer, William Albert Allard remembers taking the photo in Nevada in 1979:

“We are in this little Mountain City bar …. one of the buckeroos a big man named Stan Kendall, he was sitting on the bar stool at the very end of the bar. He had this kind of look on his face and I am always looking at faces because I think they are so revealing and faces are a part of so much of my photographs. When it comes down to it, what i really wanted to do in my pictures is to look into someone, rather than to look at them.

You know by looking at this photograph you get the feel of this place, the feel of the life, his attitude. Was I thinking consciously when I was looking into Stan Kendall? No. Oh, hell, no. Wasn’t thinking that. But I am reacting to what I am seeing.

This one is a moment. Everything there is absolutely a moment. And that look on Stan Kendall’s face — he kinda had that leaving look. And in fact, the next morning, Stan Kendall rolled up his bedroll and gathered up his saddle and his gear and he just left the ranch, to go on further down the road.”

William Albert Allard was a keen documentarian of hardscrabble landscapes. He started out at National Geographic as intern, taking photos of an Amish community in Lancaster Country, including a memorable one of a young boy and his pet guinea-pig.

Mountain City where he took the above photo was an epitome of these small marginal communities. For Gregory Martin’s memoir about growing up in this unincorporated town of thirty or so people, the New York Times wrote, “Life is Social Security checks, memories and the losing battle with time and the gale-toothed cold”. Allard worked for National Geographic for 50 years until the magazine closed down their staff photography department in 2015 to merge with Fox.

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