An ordinary Burmese Hut near the bottom of B road, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a Burmese house in Mandalay, 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, and a set of lantern slides. Hooper made the series while serving as Provost Marshal with the British Expeditionary Force, which entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, 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 Queen Supayalat to India. Mandalay was founded in 1857 at the base of Mandalay Hill, an ancient sacred site, and near the Irrawaddy River. Hooper describes the house, a characteristic example of Burmese vernacular architecture, in a caption accompanying the print: “It is made of bamboos and bamboo matting, raised some feet off the ground on teak posts. All buildings in this part of the world are thus raised as a preventative against fever, whether they are actually built over the water or not. This is one amongst others built on a creek which runs parallel with the river, a short distance from the shore. These huts are not very much protection against the weather, but they are inexpensive and put up without much labour, considerations which find favour with the inhabitants of this country. The high building across the water is one of the many Phoongyee Kyoungs about the town.” 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.