Arrival of the Expedition at Mandalay on the 28th Nov
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the arrival of British forces at Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar) on 28 November 1885, taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper. The print is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with British troops, the Burma Expeditionary Force, commanded by General Sir Harry Prendergast. In early November 1885 they advanced swiftly up the Irrawaddy from Rangoon, the capital of British Burma, to Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, in craft requisitioned from the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. This print is described by Hooper in an accompanying caption: “The scene on the river’s bank was a most animated one. The steamers were moored along the bank, and crowds of natives in their picturesque and many coloured costumes, assembled to gaze with open eyes at the unexpected sight of a British force landing at their doors. There were Phoongyees in their yellow garb, women and girls in bright coloured silks, with flowers in their hair, Shans in their big hats, Chinamen looking impassively on, and many others. All seemed good humoured, as is usual in a Burmese crowd, and they shewed no signs of hostility in their manner. The walled city of Mandalay is about 3 miles from the banks of the river; the intervening space being laid out in streets and bazaars, and thickly populated.” The British proceeded to occupy Mandalay and the war culminated in the exile of King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) to India with his queen Supayalat, followed by the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886. Hooper was a dedicated amateur photographer and his photographs of the Burma war are 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 set of lantern slides was also issued. The series is also notable for the political scandal which 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 ethical role of the photographer in documenting human suffering and the conduct of the British military during a colonial war.