A Customer on the Roadside, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a street trader and a customer on the roadside 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 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. A caption by Hooper accompanying the photograph describes the image: “This is a young girl who has come to buy some article of food from the woman squatting under the tree. At various convenient spots by the sides of the roads small restaurants of this kind are set up, at which a light repast can be obtained, for a few pice, such as cakes, sweetmeats, nuts, &c. The upright post stuck in the ground supports the pair of scales in which the commodities are weighed out. The young lady on the right, with a cigar in her mouth, has seated herself there probably with a view to a few minutes’ chat with the new comer.” 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.