Arrival of Mr Bernard, the Chief Commissioner, at the Palace of Mandalay, on the 15th Dec, 1885
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the arrival of Mr Bernard, the Chief Commissioner, at the Royal Palace of Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar) taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper on 15 December 1885. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army. The Burma Expeditionary Force, commanded by General Sir Harry Prendergast (1834-1912), entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November, taking King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) prisoner and beginning an occupation of the city. Shortly after the king was sent into exile in India with Queen Supayalat, where he died in 1916, and the war culminated in the British annexation of Upper Burma on 1 January 1886. Sir Charles Edward Bernard (1837-1901) was the Chief Commissioner of Burma between 1882 and 1887. The photograph is accompanied by a caption written by Hooper describing the image: “The gate through which he has just entered is that of the inner enclosure of the Palace. Just beyond it is seen the tower in which the sacred gong and drum are beaten at intervals during the day and night.” Hooper was a dedicated amateur photographer and his photographs of the war in Burma are considered “one of the most accomplished and comprehensive records of a nineteenth century military campaign”. It was 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 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.