East Gate of the inner enclosure of the Palace, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the East Gate of the Royal Palace 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 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, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, and a set of lantern slides were issued. Hooper made the series while serving as Provost Marshal with the British Expeditionary Force, which entered Mandalay on 28 November 1885. King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) was taken prisoner, and a military occupation was begun 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 was the last royal capital of Burma, and was founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min at the foot of Mandalay Hill, an ancient sacred site, in fulfilment of a Buddhist prophecy. The palace stood at the heart of an extensive square walled citadel, within an inner enclosure. Hooper describes the view in a caption accompanying the photograph: “This is the gate through which General Prendergast entered on the day he took King Theebaw prisoner. It is directly opposite the front of the Hall of Audience, in which is the King’s throne. There are guard-rooms in the gateway which, when we took possession, were full of a most motley collection of firearms and quantities of ammunition….The building on the left of the entrance is the one in which the Hlootdaw (Ministers) met and transacted the affairs of state, and in this place they continued dispensing Burmese justice for some time after the deposition of the King...” 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.