Kyoung built by King Theebaw inside the Palace enclosure for his favourite Phoongyee or Tutor, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of King Thibaw’s Kyaung (Monastery) in the Royal Palace at Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar) taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1885. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army. The Burma Expeditionary Force, commanded by General Sir Harry Prendergast (1834-1912), entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November 1885, taking prisoner the last king of Burma, Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), and beginning an occupation of the city. The war culminated in the British annexation of Upper Burma on 1 January 1886 and the exile of the king and his queen Supayalat to India. The monastery was one of many sacred Buddhist buildings in Mandalay, and was richly decorated with mirrored glass mosaic work. A caption by Hooper accompanying the photograph describes the monastery and its use as a Christian church during the occupation: “It is a marvellously bright-looking building; it may almost be said to be constructed entirely of looking-glass, certainly it is completely covered with small pieces of that material, and the effect when the setting sun strikes slantingly upon it is really very brilliant. The building since we have been in possession has been converted into a place of Divine worship, the interior having been appropriately fitted up by the Rev. Mr. Beatty. In it the Communion Service is usually held on Sunday morning after Divine service in the Palace, and I imagine that nowhere in the whole world is so novel and strange a building utilized for that sacred purpose.” 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”. It was 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.