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