A Money Changer at one of the City Gates, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a money changer at one of the city gates 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 under the title ‘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’. Albums in 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. , Founded in 1857 to replace Amarapura as capital, Mandalay was built as a huge, square fortress surrounded by a moat, with wide, straight roads, the palace at its heart, and entrance gates on all four sides. A caption by Hooper accompanying the photograph describes the image: “These money changers are almost invariably women or young girls. In Burmah the women hold a very different position to what they do in India, almost all the commercial business being transacted by them. The man getting change for a rupee, for which he will pay a small percentage, is a native of Lower Burmah; he has on a fur coat of the kind brought by the Shan caravans from the north of China, and worn by those who can afford the luxury during the cold weather. This man’s hair in which, like all Burmese, he takes great pride, was so long that when he stood up the end of it touched the ground.” 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.