A gang of Dacoits being conveyed down the river from Mandalay to Rangoon on board one of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company's steamers
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a group of dacoits or armed robbers being transported by river from Mandalay to Rangoon (Yangon) in Burma (Myanmar) on board an Irrawaddy Flotilla Company steamer, 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 made the series while serving as Provost Marshal with the British Expeditionary Force commanded by General Prendergast, which entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November 1885. The war culminated in the exile of King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) and Queen Supayalat to India, followed by the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886. However Burmese resistance to British rule continued for several years after the annexation, with bands of guerrilla fighters as well as dacoits engaging in warfare
using weapons which the British had failed to seize on the surrender of King Thibaw. A caption by Hooper accompanies the photograph: “A gang of Dacoits being conveyed down the river from Mandalay to Rangoon on board one of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company’s steamers. These men, after their capture by the military, had been tried by the civil authorities, and having been found guilty of dacoity and rebellion, were sentenced to transportation for various terms. As shewn in the picture, they are about to receive their morning meal, a very different treatment to that experience by malefactors before we took possession of the country. In former days no provision was made for giving food to prisoners, but they were daily taken outside the prison and allowed to receive whatever food was bestowed on them by their relatives and the charitably disposed.” 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 dacoits. 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.