Arrival of the "Tenasserim" at Rangoon on 8th Nov, 1885
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the arrival of the S.S. Tenasserim at Rangoon (Yangon) in Burma (Myanmar) on 8 November, 1885, taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper. The photograph is one of a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army during the Burma campaign. He had sailed from Madras (Chennai) in India on board the Tenasserim with Royal Artillery troops on 3 November 1885. From Rangoon, the capital of British Burma, the British forces travelled up the Irrawaddy River to Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital. Hooper’s caption for the image continued: “The steamer was moored alongside one of the banks of the river, and the work of debarkation at once commenced. The small boat in the foreground of the picture is a ‘sampan’, a light kind of canoe peculiar to this part of the world.” In addition to his military responsibilities, Hooper was a dedicated amateur photographer who had worked in collaboration with an army veterinary surgeon, George Western, and his subjects in India had included ethnographical studies, the life of the British, and the Madras famines of 1876-78. The Burma war series of photographs is considered “one of the most accomplished and comprehensive records of a nineteenth century military campaign”. They were published in 1887 as ‘Burmah: a series of one hundred photographs illustrating incidents connected with the British Expeditionary Force to that country, from the embarkation at Madras, 1st Nov, 1885, to the capture of King Theebaw, with many views of Mandalay and surrounding country, native life and industries’. There were two editions, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, and a series of lantern slides was also issued. A political scandal arose following allegations by a journalist that Hooper had acted sadistically in the process of photographing the execution by firing squad of Burmese rebels. The subsequent court of inquiry concluded that he had behaved in a “callous and indecorous” way and the affair raised issues of the role of the photograph in documenting human suffering and the conduct of the British military during a colonial war. The war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886 and the exile of King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), the last of the Burmese kings, and his queen Supayalat, to India.