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Willoughby Wallace Hooper
Munnipoories. [Manipuris]. The country to which these men belong lies to the north-west of Burmah
10 x 15 cm
Shelfmark: Photo 312/(96), Item number: 31296
Curatorial description (Accessed: 27 February 2017)
Photograph of two Manipuri men bearing arms, one mounted on horseback, taken at Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar) by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1886. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86), published in 1887 under the title ‘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) and a set of lantern slides. Hooper took the images while serving as Provost Marshal with the British Expeditionary Force, which entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November 1885, beginning an occupation of the city. A caption by Hooper accompanies the photograph and describes the men, from Manipur, an Indian state bordering north-western Burma: “A good many of them are to be found in Mandalay, where they are engaged principally in the silk trade. The rider of the pony is a man by name Maung Ba, who was employed in the Provost Marshal’s Department as Interpreter; he is a first-rate man with plenty of pluck, and, having passed the greater part of his life in Mandalay, he has an intimate acquaintance with the place and people; he rendered invaluable assistance in very many ways.” 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.