A Cigar Shop in B Road, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a cigar shop in B Road at 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 made the series while serving as Provost Marshal with the British Expeditionary Force, which entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November 1885. The Burmese king, Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) was deposed and exiled to India and a military occupation of the city began. The war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886. Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min of Burma's last Konbaung dynasty, on a plain close to Mandalay Hill, an ancient sacred site. It was built as a huge square citadel surrounded by a moat, beyond which the city suburbs were laid out on a grid pattern; B Road was a main thoroughfare outside the city walls which ran from east to west along the edge of the south moat, terminating at the river. A caption by Hooper accompanies the photograph and comments on the Burmese affinity for tobacco: “This is a shop that does a good business in all parts of Burmah, as the Burmese, both men and women, are great lovers of tobacco; some of the commoner sorts are grown in the country, but the bulk of it is imported, in a raw state, from Cocanada in India. Two kinds of cheroots are smoked, a small one made entirely of tobacco leaf, and a large one made like a cigarette with an outer covering of a thin leaf filled with a mixture of pith and tobacco, this latter kind being more especially prized by the fair sex. The young woman who is handing a cheroot to her customer has, as may be seen, one of this kind between her lips.” 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.