Kaychins bringing wood into Bhamo
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of Kachins with wood loaded onto an oxen-drawn cart at Bhamo 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 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. In an accompanying caption, Hooper describes the type of cart shown in the photograph: “The carts used for that purpose are of the most primitive description, the wheels being sometimes made from one solid piece of wood; at other times, as in this case, of three pieces joined together. They are drawn by buffaloes, which are very powerful beasts, the load being so arranged that the greater part of the weight rests on the necks of the animals. The ‘solid wheeled’ carts which are often met with in the Ceded Districts and the Mysore country in India are of exactly the same pattern as these Burmese carts.” 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.