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Willoughby Wallace Hooper
A couple of Burmese young ladies, one of whom is engaged in making 'cheroots', an occupation which fills up a good deal of their time, the demand for these articles in Burmah being very great
10.1 x 15.3 cm
Shelfmark: Photo 312/(93), Item number: 31293
Curatorial description (Accessed: 27 February 2017)
Photograph of two Burmese young women making cheroots, 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’. The series was issued as an album in two editions (one with albumen prints, one with autotypes) and as 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. A caption accompanying the photograph describes the Burmese passion for smoking: “These cheroots, or it would be more correct to call them cigarettes, are about eight inches in length: they are composed of small pieces of pith with a small admixture of tobacco-leaf, which is enclosed in a covering made of a thin fibrous white leaf. A girl’s education is not considered complete till she can make these perfectly. The Burmese of both sexes are inveterate smokers; all smoke from the youngest to the oldest, in fact one hardly ever sees a Burman without a cheroot in his mouth…” 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.