Harold Allen was born in Portland, Oregon in 1912. He came to the school of the Art Institute in 1937 and also enrolled at a photography night course at the School of Design in Chicago. He was drafted in 1941 (before being able to finish the course) and served as an Air Force photographer. He was also a student of the Life Magazine Photography School for the Armed Forces. In addition to being an accomplished architectural photographer, Harold Allen has been an important figure in photographic education.