From the article at Getty Images FOTO:
For much of her life, Allen told FOTO, she expected to become a painter; as a child, she loved art, drawings, and museums, and in her 20s received an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. But after taking a class with the great photographer Harold Feinstein in the 1960s, the trajectory of Allen’s life changed. As she puts it, working with a camera “felt like I was given a passport into the world.”
In 1978, at the end of Mardi Gras, Allen walked into the restaurant at her hotel in New Orleans — and there, her life changed again, as she met and photographed a group of crossdressers. Looking through the viewfinder, she told FOTO, “I was not seeing masculine or feminine. I was seeing the soul, the essence, of a human being.” Today, she traces a direct line from that epiphany, that exact instant, to virtually all of the work she has done since.