One of three Bill Allard photographs that appeared in a Super Bowl commercial.
Bill Allard went to Montana for the Super Bowl ad, which he calls the "best, most pleasurable commercial gig I've ever had."
photo by jon golden
Out of nowhere, longtime National Geographic photographer and Afton resident William Albert Allard got a phone call from California about a month ago– about making a Super Bowl commercial.
"This is the best kind," says Allard of the phone call pitch. "Someone admired my work."
The plan was to send 10 noted photographers out to shoot the two-minute "Farmer" spot, based around deceased radio broadcaster Paul Harvey's "So God Made a Farmer" speech. Chrysler aired the Harvey-narrated commercial during the fourth quarter of the longest-ever Super Bowl February 3.
"It's all been very top secret," says Allard the day after the 49ers/Ravens battle.
Allard spent seven days shooting in Montana and California. "Obviously it wasn't the best time of year to be shooting farming," he points out.
Out of the 25 photos he counted during the commercial, three were Allard's work: a close-up portrait of a man, a saddled horse, and a family saying grace at the dinner table.
The photographers didn't have the Harvey script, says Allard– although Harvey gave the speech in 1978 at a Future Farmers of America convention.
"This was done very, very quickly," says Allard. "I was sending in work as I was doing it. The final edit wasn't decided on until Wednesday or Thursday. Nothing leaked out."
Allard's work has appeared in National Geographic for nearly 50 years, even after the iconic mag cut its photography staff in 2008. "I'm 75– it's a very physical job," he says. "I'm more into writing these days."
He's published six books of his photographs, but notes that the Super Bowl "was certainly the biggest audience I've ever had."
The Dodge Ram brand has declared 2013 the "year of the farmer," and the assignment appealed to Allard, who doesn't do a lot of commercial work. "I'm close to the subject– rural America," he says. "This was a documentary approach– and it pays very well."