General View of the City from Mandalay Hill
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
View of the city of Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar) from Mandalay Hill, taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1886. The view is in the form of a three-part panorama, from a series of photographs documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army. The last royal capital of Burma, Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min of the Konbaung dynasty who shifted his seat here from Amarapura. It was built at the foot of Mandalay Hill, an ancient sacred site, in fulfilment of a Buddhist prophecy. The Burma Expeditionary Force entered the city on 28 November 1885, taking prisoner the last king of Burma, Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), and beginning an occupation. The war culminated in the annexation by the British of Upper Burma on 1 January 1886 and the exile of the king and his queen Supayalat to India. This view of the city on the plain surrounding the hill shows monasteries and rest houses in the foreground with the huge square citadel containing the Royal Palace beyond. Hooper describes the view in a caption accompanying the photograph: “...the water on the extreme left of the picture is the moat outside the east face of the city; the large Kyoung in the left foreground is now the Hospital for British troops. The row of Kyoungs seen beyond it, between it and the city wall, are those occupied by the 21st M.I. The tall spire within the walls is that of the Palace. The hills in the distance are on the opposite side of the Irrawaddy.” 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”. They were 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’. There were two editions, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, and a set of lantern slides was issued. 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.