Landing Troops at Zingyandoung on 17th Nov
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of British troops landing at Zingyandoung on the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwaddy) River in Burma (Myanmar), taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper on 17 November 1885. The photograph is one of a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army. He had sailed from Madras in India with Royal Artillery troops in early November 1885 to Rangoon, the capital of British Burma. From there British forces advanced swiftly up the Irrawaddy River towards Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, in steamers requisitioned from the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. A caption by Hooper accompanies the print: “It was here that the first shot was fired. A short distance above this point, round the corner of the hill seen in the picture, the Burmese had constructed a masked battery, commanding a narrow passage of the river, and on the approach of the ‘Kathleen’ and the gunboat ‘Irrawaddy’ they opened fire. The fleet halted, and a detachment was landed at this spot with orders to march round and capture the battery. A few shells, however, from the guns of the ‘Irrawaddy’ proved more than the Burmese could stand, and on arriving at the spot the troops found, somewhat to their disgust, that the enemy had cleared out. Some worthless pieces of ordnance were found in the stockade, but the position was such a strong one that even these, if properly handled, might have been formidable to an invader.” The war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma on 1 January 1886 by the British and the exile of King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), the last of the Burmese kings, and his queen Supayalat, to India. Hooper's photographs of the war are considered “one of the most accomplished and comprehensive records of a nineteenth century military campaign”. They were 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 series of lantern slides was also issued. A political scandal arose following allegations by a journalist that Hooper, a dedicated amateur photographer, 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 photograph in documenting human suffering and the conduct of the British military during a colonial war.
This print is accompanied by a long letterpress description.