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View at Bhamo inside the Stockade occupied by our troops

View at Bhamo inside the Stockade occupied by our troops

Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1886

Shelfmark: Photo 312/(70)

Item number: 31270

Length: 10.1

Width: 15.3

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of a view inside the British military stockade at Bhamo 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 under the command of General Prendergast entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November 1885, and then took Bhamo on 28 December. The war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886 and the exile of King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) and Queen Supayalat to India. Bhamo, situated in Kachin State in the hills of Burma’s far north, is the closest and most accessible point to China. A caption by Hooper accompanies the photograph: “The long thatched building seen through the trees was the Mess and Officers’ Quarters of the 26th Punjaub Light Infantry. Bhamo is at present our frontier station in the extreme north, on the left bank of the Irrawaddy, about 150 miles above Mandalay. The climate is delightfully cold during the winter, though hot for a time in the summer, and hitherto it has proved an unhealthy spot for our troops, especially in the rains.” 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.

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