Bridge leading across the moat to the South Gate, taken from the road outside the moat, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a bridge over the moat leading to the South Gate 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) and its aftermath, 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 royal capital, on 28 November 1885. King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) was deposed and taken prisoner, and a military occupation began in the city. The war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886 and the exile of Thibaw and his queen Supayalat to India. Mandalay, founded in 1857, was built in the form of a perfectly square fortress with brick walls each nearly 2 km (1.2 miles) in length. The walls were crowned at intervals with wooden spires, known as pyatthat, and the fortress was surrounded by a wide moat, crossed by bridges on each side. Hooper describes this image of the bridge and gateway on the south side in an accompanying caption: “The bridge is partly of brick covered with lime plaster; the centre part is constructed of massive teak posts and beams. This gate, like all the others, has a canopy raised over it made of teak and painted red, with the usual gilt Htee, or umbrella, on the top. The gates themselves are ponderous, being made of thick teak planks, and secured from the inside, when closed, with huge wooden beams which are run across through iron rings from side to side. The figure in the foreground is that of a Burman carrying firewood.” 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.