Interior of a Phoongyee Kyoung, to the east of Mandalay Hill, used as a bedroom by some of the Officers of the 2nd Madras Lancers
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the interior of a monastery or kyaung for Buddhist monks or pongyis, used as officers’ quarters by the British army 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 were issued, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, and 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. King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) was deposed and taken prisoner, and a military occupation of the city began. Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min (ruled 1853-78) on a site close to Mandalay Hill, an ancient sacred mount, in fulfilment of a Buddhist prophecy that a religious centre would be created there. There was a wealth of monastic architecture in the city as a consequence of royal patronage, and a number of monasteries and zayats (public rest houses) were clustered at the base of Mandalay Hill. Some were used as military billets during the occupation, as shown in this view of a monastery building taken over by officers of the 2nd Madras Lancers. A caption by Hooper accompanies the photograph: “This building differed in no particular from others used for the same purpose by the Officers of the various Regiments quartered at Mandalay; it is therefore given as a specimen of the kind of accommodation available. The contents of the room in the picture here given consist principally, as is seen, of what may be designated “loot”. 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.