A Refreshment Stall, [Mandalay], in the road leading from the Palace to the East Gate of the City
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a refreshment stall on the road leading from the Royal Palace to the east gate of 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 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, founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min (ruled 1853-78), was built as a huge, square fortress surrounded by a moat, with wide, straight roads, the palace in an inner enclosure at its heart, and entrance gates on all four walls. The east gate was the main entrance. A caption by Hooper accompanying the photograph describes the stall, situated in a prime position: “…soda water, lemonade, and other non-alcoholic drinks can be procured by thirsty passers by, also bread and cakes of various descriptions. Since our occupation of the place a good many of the natives of India and enterprising men from Rangoon have started establishments of this kind, knowing that in a climate like Mandalay, during the hot season, a cool drink is an article for which the demand would be pretty constant...” 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.