Kaychins, a tribe inhabiting the hilly country to the east of Bhamo
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of two Kachin people taken at Bhamo in Burma (Myanmar) by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1886. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86), published in 1887 under the title ‘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, and then took Bhamo on 28 December. Bhamo is situated in Kachin State in the hills of Burma’s far north. A caption by Hooper accompanying the photograph describes his impression of the Kachins: “They are a very uncivilized people, and but little is known of them at present. The men always go about armed, some with guns, all with dhars or swords, which differ in shape from those used by the Burmese, being square and broad at the end. Their mode of carrying provisions, &c., is either in baskets slung on a bamboo, or in a kind of pannier attached to a wooden collar, as seen on the shoulders of the man on the right.” 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.