West face of the city of Mandalay
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the west city wall of Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar) with tents of the 23rd Madras Infantry pitched on the banks of the moat, taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1885. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army. The Burma Expeditionary Force entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November 1885, taking prisoner the last king of Burma, Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), and beginning an occupation of the city. The war culminated in the annexation by the British of Upper Burma on 1 January 1886 and the exile of the king and his queen Supayalat to India. Mandalay was built as a square citadel, in the centre of which stood the Royal Palace. A caption by Hooper accompanying the photograph describes this image: “The city was built in 1855; it is laid out in squares, with good broad roads running north, south, east and west. The walls, which are of red brick, are about 30 ft. high and 3 ft. thick, embanked inside with earth to a great height. Each face of the city is one mile and 1/8th long; it has 12 gates, 3 on each side; on the west side there are two bridges, but on the other sides only the centre gate has a bridge opposite to it. The whole city is surrounded with a moat about 100 ft. broad and 9 or 10 ft. deep in the centre, between which and the walls runs a berm some 60 ft. wide. It is on this that the camp of the 23rd M.I. was pitched shortly after our occupation; the tents had to be pitched, as shewn in the photograph, on platforms made of bamboo, as a preventative against fever, which sleeping on the ground in this climate would have been likely to induce. A camp so pitched has certainly a peculiar and novel appearance. This Regiment, later on, moved into quarters about a mile down C. road; the men were housed in Kyoungs which were converted into Barracks; and the officers lived, and had their mess, in the old Residency.” 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”. 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 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.