A Road in Mandalay, within the City Walls.
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a road in the city of Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar), taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1886. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86), 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’. Two editions were issued, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, along with a set of lantern slides. Hooper took the photographs while serving as Provost Marshal with the British Expeditionary Force, which entered Mandalay on 28 November 1885. King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) was deposed and taken prisoner, and a military occupation began in the city. The war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886 and the exile of Thibaw and his queen Supayalat to India. Mandalay, founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min (ruled 1853-78), was the last capital of the Burmese kings. It was built in the form of a huge, square fortress surrounded by a moat, with wide, straight roads and the palace inside an inner enclosure at its heart. Hooper describes the image in an accompanying caption: "This is a continuation of the road passing along the south face of the outer palace enclosure. The city is laid out in squares, all the principal roads being well constructed and with trees planted on each side, and in many cases with streams of water also. They were very much out of repair when we took the city, but a good deal has been done since then to make them more serviceable and pleasant to travel over than they were in those days. The small wooden cage on wheels, near the right of the picture, is seen in many parts of the city and suburbs. When a fire breaks out in a Burman's house he at once tumbles all his goods and chattels into this, runs it out to the middle of the road and squats resignedly down beside it, leaving the house to its fate, which is decided in a very short space of time, as the houses are mostly constructed of nothing but bamboo matting and thatch."
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”. 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.