Much of the water used by the inhabitants within the city walls is drawn from the moat, and this is chiefly done by the small boys of the family who come out for that purpose, morning and evening...
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of boys collecting water from the moat 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 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’. Albums were issued in two editions, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, along with 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. The Burmese king, Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), was deposed and exiled to India and a military occupation of the city began. The war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886. Founded in 1857 to replace Amarapura as capital, Mandalay was built as a huge, square fortress surrounded by a wide moat on all four sides crossed by bridges. A caption by Hooper accompanying the photograph describes the image: “Much of the water used by the inhabitants within the city walls is drawn from the moat, and this is chiefly done by the small boys of the family, who come out for that purpose morning and evening; frequently little chaps 4 or 5 years old may be seen carrying a big pot of water on their heads, which oftentimes comes to grief, causing shouts of merriment among the others. As may be seen they have little else to carry beside their pots.” 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.