The Village of Pyntha, up in the Shan Hills
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a view in the village of Pyntha in the Shan Hills 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 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, 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. However Burmese resistance to British rule continued for several years after the annexation in the form of an armed struggle mounted by guerrillas. The photograph is accompanied by a caption in which Hooper describes the scene in this view of British soldiers in the village: “about six miles beyond Zee-bin-zee, to which a small force went from Zee-bin-zee on 11th January to make a reconnaissance and take observations. The track to this village was through dense jungle and up a very steep ghat, but we were unmolested on the way and found the village itself deserted. At this spot we found the climate delightful, it being some 6,000 ft. above the level of the sea.” 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.