Road in the City [of Mandalay] looking towards the Palace and taken from the top of the South Gate
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a road in the city of Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar), taken from the top of the South Gate by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1886. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86), 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’. Two editions were issued, 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 on 28 November 1885. King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) was deposed and taken prisoner, and a military occupation was begun in the city. The war culminated in the British annexation of Upper Burma on 1 January 1886 and the exile of Thibaw and Queen Supayalat to India. Mandalay, founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min, was the last royal capital of Burma. It was built in the form of a huge square fortress surrounded by a wide moat, with the palace in an inner enclosure at its heart. There were twelve entrance gates, three on each side, with the main gate in the centre of the east side. Hooper describes the view from the South Gate in a caption accompanying the photograph: “The road runs due North from the gate, the outer palisade of the Palace being at the extreme end of this road. The buildings in the foreground are the old guard-houses. After the city was taken possession of, the Provost Marshal’s department was located at this spot; the building on the right was used as officers’ quarters, being made somewhat more habitable and comfortable by the use of bamboo matting; opposite to it the Madras Infantry Guard was quartered, and the far end, where the sentry is seen walking, was made into a lock-up in which prisoners were temporarily kept.” 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.