Raised on Vancouver Island, Allan earned a doctorate degree in art history from the University of California at Santa Barbara and has taught in the University of California system for more than 12 years. His specialties include Italian Renaissance art and architecture, medieval art, and Byzantine art. His recent publications include a book on Hugo Munsterburg, the first film theorist and a picture book, illustrated with his photographs, of the historical architecture of northern Cyprus. He has also produced a documentary film on the history and architecture of the medieval city of Famagusta, on the east coast of Cyprus, where Allan lived and taught for two years. He has published a number of works of travel photography.