Scavengers. This is a characteristic view of one of the streets in the suburbs of Mandalay
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a street scene in Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar), with pigs scavenging in the foreground, taken 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, 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. King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) was deposed and taken prisoner, and a military occupation of the city began. The war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886 and the exile of Thibaw and Queen Supayalat to India. Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min (ruled 1853-78) near Mandalay Hill, an ancient sacred site, and the Irrawaddy River. It was built as a square citadel surrounded by a moat, with the royal palace at its heart and entrance gates on all four walls leading to the suburbs which grew up beyond the moat. Hooper describes the scene in a caption accompanying the print: “This is a characteristic view of one of the streets in the suburbs of Mandalay. In the whole of the town of Mandalay no attempt was ever made to carry out sanitary arrangements of any kind before our arrival, all the sweepings and offal from the houses and shops being thrown out every morning into the centre of the streets, from which it was never removed, the pigs, Pariah dogs, and cows alone essaying to perform that duty. The pigs were considered Royal property, and any person killing one of these animals was subject to a heavy fine. After our arrival, no such protection being afforded to the beasts, they quickly became pork, which was daily offered for sale in the Bazaars, and found ready purchasers among the inhabitants, more especially the Chinese, whose ideas of what may be considered luxuries are pretty comprehensive.” 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.