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Willoughby Wallace Hooper
A Kyoung under Mandalay Hill, to the north-east of the city
10.1 x 15.3 cm
Shelfmark: Photo 312/(49), Item number: 31249
Curatorial description (Accessed: 27 February 2017)
Photograph of a kyaung (monastery) at the foot of Mandalay Hill 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 entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November 1885. King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) was deposed and taken prisoner, and a military occupation of the city began. Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min (reigned 1853-78) of Burma's last Konbaung dynasty. It was built in the form of a square citadel surrounded by a moat on a site close to Mandalay Hill, an ancient sacred mount, in fulfilment of a Buddhist prophecy that a religious centre would be created there. This view shows one of a number of monasteries to the north-east of the city, which Hooper described in a caption accompanying the photograph as being “...used as a Hospital for the European troops. The spires on the city walls are seen in the distance.” 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.