Beautiful old Prome with its clustering trees and spires beside the Irrawaddy River, Burma
Photographer: Underwood and Underwood
Medium: Photographic print
Stereoscopic pair of photographs taken by Underwood & Underwood in c.1900 of Prome (Pyay) in Pegu (Bago), Burma (Myanmar). Prome, one of the largest towns in Burma, lies on the eastern banks of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River in the delta region. The Shwesandaw Pagoda here is one of the country’s holiest sites. Legend recounts that the Buddha visited the area and prophesied the foundation of the nearby ancient Pyu capital of Sri Ksetra. This view from a hillside looks towards a picturesque cluster of pagoda spires amid palm trees and the Irrawaddy in the distance, with a group of Buddhist monks in the foreground. The prints are from a collection of 36 stereoscopic views of Burma, one of a series of “stereoscopic tours” of foreign countries published as part of the ‘Underwood Travel Library’. Stereoscopic views became enormously popular from the mid-19th century onward as they enabled observers to imagine that they were really “touring” around distant parts of the world. Each pair of views, made using a special camera with two lenses, is mounted on stout card for insertion in a stereoscope or binocular viewer. This device produces the illusion of a single three-dimensional image in the mind of the observer by using the binocular function of human sight to combine the two images, which are seen from fractionally different viewpoints. The prints in this set are generally of high quality and selected for their clarity and instructive value. A few of the mounts also have a detailed descriptive caption printed on the reverse, with instructions (presumably for the guidance of teachers) as to what general topic the photograph illustrates.