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View looking up the river between Ava and Sagain

View looking up the river between Ava and Sagain

Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1885

Shelfmark: Photo 312/(18)

Item number: 31218

Length: 14.8

Width: 19.9

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of a view looking up the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River between Ava (Inwa) and Sagaing in Burma (Myanmar), taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1885. The print is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the Burma Expeditionary Force, British troops commanded by General Sir Harry Prendergast (1834-1912). In early November 1885 they advanced swiftly up the Irrawaddy from Rangoon, the capital of British Burma, to Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, in craft requisitioned from the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. The scene in this print is described by Hooper in an accompanying caption: “The river here is very broad, but the channel for steamers is intricate, there being a reef of rocks running out from the Ava side. At this point the Burmese thought to stop our passage altogether, should we ever get so far, by sinking a line of steamers and other boats across the river; these can be seen in the distance…A passage was quickly found, and the fleet passed through without mishap. The two boats in the foreground to the right are Burmese river boats. The distant hills are the Shan Hills; the position of Mandalay is, as near as possible, in the centre of this picture.” The war culminated in the exile of King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) to India with his queen Supayalat and the annexation of Upper Burma, announced by the British on 1 January 1886. Hooper was a dedicated amateur photographer and his photographs of the Burma war are considered “one of the most accomplished and comprehensive records of a nineteenth century military campaign”. They were 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’. There were two editions, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, and a set of lantern slides was also issued. 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.

This print is accompanied by a long letterpress description.

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