Kyoungs under Mandalay Hill, occupied by Colonel Parsons and the Officers of the 2nd Madras Lancers
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of monastery buildings 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) who shifted his capital here from Amarapura. It was built 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 (kyaungs) were clustered at the base of the hill. Some were used as military billets during the occupation, as shown in this view of monastery buildings taken over by officers of the 2nd Madras Lancers under the command of Colonel Parsons, with Mandalay Hill in the background. A caption by Hooper accompanies the photograph: "The nearest one, on the right, was used as Officers’ quarters; it is the one of which the interior is represented in the last picture [Photo 312/(54)]. The one farther away was the Mess House. No particular description of these is necessary; they shew the style of residence we had to make ourselves comfortable in to the best of our ability. The roof is made of corrugated zinc, so that, as may be imagined, during the hot season, one got the full benefit of the sun’s rays. During the rains a heavy tropical shower during the night very quickly roused up the occupants, and a rapid shifting of cots to dry corners was often accompanied by remarks more forcible than polite.” 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.