Hong Kong on Pancro 400

Covering Hong Kong’s Anti-Extradition Protests on Bergger Pancro 400

[Panco 400] Shoot Me: Prince Edward, Hong Kong: An elderly woman presents herself to riot police perched on the roof of Mong Kong Police Station, imploring them to shoot her and not the protestors. Hong Kongers took to rain soaked streets in defiance of the new law banning masks in public. October 6, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA

Pancro 400 may not be very well known to people outside the world of 35mm film shooters, but after seeing a review on it from the (now mulleted) George Muncey of Negative Feedback , I was intrigued.

I shot my first frames of Pancro, not on the streets of Hong Kong but among friends and family in Los Angeles, CA.

[Pancro 400] Lolly & Mel: July 2019 Photo By Aaron Guy Leroux/Sipa USA

Upon getting my scans back, I was hooked. While I had shot Tri-X 400 and some Ilford HP5, I hadn’t been all that thrilled with the results. When I looked through my Tri-X images, all I could think was “Vietnam is over man…” Yes it is still a great film stock, and capable of producing truly magical images…but the thought of covering the protests on it just felt lazy, and I didn’t love the results enough to override that feeling. I had better results with the HP5, but I still didn’t feel compelled to buy twenty rolls of it and cover the story that way. Pancro on the other hand left me mesmerized. The good folks at Bergger found a place to live in between the high contrast of Tri-X and the graininess of HP5. I really fell in love with the stuff. While I hadn’t meant these reviews of the films I’ve used over the past seven months to be endorsements one way or another, I will say that for me and the story I was (and currently am) shooting, I found Pancro 400 to the best suited to my style, and the most pleasing to my eye. I like it. I shot a lot of it.

[Pancro 400] Advance and Retreat: Admiralty, Hong Kong: As protestors begin to attack police headquarters, riot police immediately begin to fight back. In earlier stages of the protest, the violence would begin at night. It then moved to evening, and now attacks start at midday. Both sides are running out of patience. Sunday marked a return to violence for both police and citizens alike after three days of peaceful demonstrations due to the anniversary of 9/11 and the autumn moon festival. September 15, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA
[Pancro 400] Fog Of War: Admiralty, Hong Kong: Historical injuries and injustices sparked the protests in Hong Kong. As the fight has raged on, new injuries fuel even more violence. They cycle is vicious. Tear gas and bricks are easier to come by than forgiveness. Sunday marked a return to violence for both police and citizens alike after three days of peaceful demonstrations due to the anniversary of 9/11 and the autumn moon festival. September 15, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA
[Pancro 400] Front Lines: Admiralty, Hong Kong: Front line protestors waste no time assaulting police headquarters with petrol bombs and bricks. It takes seconds for the streets to be enveloped in a fog of tear gas. Sunday marked a return to violence for both police and citizens alike after three days of peaceful demonstrations due to the anniversary of 9/11 and the autumn moon festival. September 15, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA

Every Time I got images back from the folks at Dot Well I felt inspired. It’s one of the little joys you don’t always get from shooting digital. What I was seeing and shooting were being rendered in surprising and interesting ways by the film. As someone who shoots a lot of images, it is nice to be surprised by what you find when you get home. Getting exactly what you want, it can be a curse.

“I did not know that I could only get the most out of life by giving myself up to it.” -Marion Milner

[Pancro 400] Take Cover: Admiralty, Hong Kong: A frontal assault on police headquarters is extremely dangerous. Front line protestors pulse their attacks. Running up to the barriers quickly and throwing bricks or petrol bombs, then retreating to relative safety a few meters away. Sunday marked a return to violence for both police and citizens alike after three days of peaceful demonstrations due to the anniversary of 9/11 and the autumn moon festival. September 15, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA
[Pancro] Busted: Admiralty, Hong Kong: A young protestor is arrested in Admiralty after a charge by riot police. Hong Kongers took to the streets in droves as their continued protest movement took on a new significance as it coincided with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. October 1st, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA

I couldn’t escape the thought that many of the Pancro images more accurately portray what it feels like for me, personally, covering these events. Digital color images more accurately represent the scenes I am photographing, but the film gives a glimpse of what it feels like to stand there and watch children fight their government for control of their future. It is tense, often bleak, and the sensation of helplessness, of being powerless in the face of injustice, well that is harder to choke down than any tear gas.

[Pancro 400] Douse The Gas: Admiralty, Hong Kong: A member of the Black Bloc tries to extinguish a tear gas cartridge. Hong Kongers took to the streets in droves as their continued protest movement took on a new significance as it coincided with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. October 1st, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA
[Pancro 400] Resting: Admiralty, Hong Kong: After the initial confrontation of the day between the Black Bloc and riot police, a member of the Black Bloc checks his phone for police positions, and news updates. Hong Kongers took to the streets in droves as their continued protest movement took on a new significance as it coincided with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. October 1st, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA
[Pancro 400] The Wait: Admiralty, Hong Kong: Members of the Black Bloc await the arrival of riot police. Hong Kongers took to the streets in droves as their continued protest movement took on a new significance as it coincided with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. October 1st, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA

Panco 400 still holds possibilities as well. None of these photos have been pushed or pulled. I’ve been meaning to push it farther and see what I can get away with. Perhaps even taking it out at night is a possibility depending on the location. Central and Causeway bay tend to have a lot of ambient light due to the heavy signage from shopping malls and businesses in the area. That will be a good testing ground for the latitude of this film.

[Pancro 400] Masked Men: Central, Hong Kong: A reported 800,000 demonstrators filled the streets of Hong Kong in the Human Rights Day Rally. December 8, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA
[Pancro 400] Mr. Cool: Central, Hong Kong: A reported 800,000 demonstrators filled the streets of Hong Kong in the Human Rights Day Rally. December 8, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA
[Pancro 400] That Red, White, and Blue: Central, Hong Kong: A reported 800,000 demonstrators filled the streets of Hong Kong in the Human Rights Day Rally. December 8, 2019-Hong Kong-Photo by Aaron Guy Leroux/ Sipa USA

Unfortunately for the people of Hong Kong, there looks to be ample opportunity to shoot more. While the situation here in the city has calmed in terms of frequency, the intensity of protests has not waned. More protests are planned for nearly every day next week. In addition Chinese New Year will be January 25th. Word on the street is that the protests on that day will be substantial. I will be back from an exhibition in Vancouver, just in time to hit the streets once again. I’m certain to have a few rolls of Pancro 400 in my bag that day.

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Photojournalist & Documentary Photographer / Member NPPA & NHJA / University of the Arts London alumnus www.aaronguyleroux.com

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Aaron Guy Leroux

Aaron Guy Leroux

Photojournalist & Documentary Photographer / Member NPPA & NHJA / University of the Arts London alumnus www.aaronguyleroux.com

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