View from Mandalay Hill looking SE over the Koo-thoo-daw or Royal Merit House (the vast mass of white building on left) and the Atoo-ma-shee or Incomplete Pagoda (the large white building on right)
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a view looking south-east from Mandalay Hill in Burma (Myanmar) showing the Atumashi Kyaung (Monastery) and the Kuthodaw Pagoda, taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1886. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86), which culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886 and the exile of Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), the last king of Burma, and his queen Supayalat to India. Hooper made the series while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army, and it was 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 issued. The last royal capital of Burma, Mandalay was founded in 1857 at the foot of Mandalay Hill, an ancient sacred site, in fulfilment of a Buddhist prophecy. The Burma Expeditionary Force entered the city on 28 November 1885, taking Thibaw prisoner, and beginning an occupation. Hooper describes the view in a caption accompanying the photograph: "This is, I think, the finest view about Mandalay; immediately beyond the white buildings the golden spires of innumerable pagodas and Kyoungs rise amongst the palm and other trees; beyond them again, in the Monsoon and cold season, stretches the wide expanse of Aubinleh Tank, and the lofty Shan Hills in the distance complete a picture which a photograph can but poorly represent; so much of its charm consisting, as it does, in its brilliant colouring. The Kyoungs just behind the Incomparable Pagoda (in the centre of the picture) are those occupied by the Hampshire Regiment.” The Atumashi Monastery was erected by King Mindon Min (reigned 1853-78) in 1857 as part of the foundation and consecration of Mandalay. It was built to an unusual design, having five graduated white stucco terraces, and was destroyed by fire in 1890. The Kuthodaw Pagoda, another meritorious work, is surrounded by 729 small shrines which each contain a marble block on which is carved in Pali script part of the sacred Theravada Buddhist texts. Taken as a whole they comprise the entire Pali canon or Tipitakas (Tripitakas in Sanskrit). 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.