'By the old Moulmein pagoda', looking off over town and river, Burma
Photographer: Underwood and Underwood
Medium: Photographic print
Stereoscopic pair of photographs taken by Underwood & Underwood in c.1900 of a distant view of the Kyaikthanlan Pagoda, the town and the Salween or Thanlwin River at Moulmein (Mawlamyaing) in Burma (Myanmar), with palm trees and a temple bell in the foreground. The title of the image is a quotation from Rudyard Kipling's poem ‘The Road to Mandalay’, which begins: “By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea / There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;”. The Kyaikthanlan is the tallest of five temples and monasteries built on a ridge of hills in east Moulmein and was probably the setting for the poem. The main shrine is a tapering, conical stupa 40 m tall, which stands on a platform reached via flights of steps ascending the hillside. The prints are from a collection of 36 stereoscopic views of Burma, one of a series of “stereoscopic tours” of foreign countries published as part of the ‘Underwood Travel Library’. Stereoscopic views became enormously popular from the mid-19th century onward as they enabled observers to imagine that they were really “touring” around distant parts of the world. Each pair of views, made using a special camera with two lenses, is mounted on stout card for insertion in a stereoscope or binocular viewer. This device produces the illusion of a single three-dimensional image in the mind of the observer by using the binocular function of human sight to combine the two images, which are seen from fractionally different viewpoints. The prints in this set are generally of high quality and selected for their clarity and instructive value. A few of the mounts also have a detailed descriptive caption printed on the reverse, with instructions (presumably for the guidance of teachers) as to what general topic the photograph illustrates.