Tan Zexun

Saint Andrew Junior College
Founder of Panda with a Camera

“I think we should get you a proper camera for your birthday this year”, said my dad as he got back from work one night in December 2007. Two weeks after that, I was holding my very first DSLR camera, signalling the beginning of an eventful and almost unbelievable six-year journey that’s still being written. Amongst my friends and colleagues, I’m known as the Panda. My name’s Zexun and I’m a young entrepreneur, photographer and filmmaker.

My story with The Annexe Project started with an academic low as my H2 Math test percentages dipped to single digits, with my H2 physics and chemistry marks in the red too. I was on the verge of giving up after already repeating a year in JC1. I soon realized that perhaps trying out a few sessions of what I thought was typical tuition wouldn’t be such a bad idea. With my parents’ help, I found out about the centre from an ex-student of the place.

Upon stepping foot into the centre, the first person I met was Alvin, founder and director of The Annexe Project. He brought me around on a tour of the quaint little two-story centre filled with all sorts of quirky memorabilia; from Astro Boy figurines to maps and travel guides from Lonely Planet. At one corner of the upper level rested an electric keyboard, and diagonally opposite, a huge painting of Einstein. As I listened to Alvin talk about the company’s history and his teaching methods, I realized that perhaps this place was different from my previous dull and boring tuition sessions. I signed up for individual math sessions with Alvin, and the rest is history.

Along the way, I opened up to Alvin about my passion in photography and creative media. This changed the course of our conversations, because he saw I was determined in the pursuit of bettering my photography skills. He began to draw parallels between my dedication to photography and the persistence I needed to complete my A levels. He said that since I was already halfway through, dropping out would be a mistake even though I thought that the only thing I was good at was with pictures. With his help (and that of physics and chemistry tutors I got to know along the way), I held steadfast in my academics. I didn’t get stellar results in the end, but I aimed to pass, and pass I did.

With the advice and support given from various people in The Annexe Project as well as that of various friends and family, I founded Panda with a camera, a company that’s focused on photography and filmmaking services, with an emphasis on wedding, portraiture and corporate genres.

Amongst the achievements I’m proud of, I was fortunate enough to be selected as a cinematographer in the Multimedia Team of National Day Parade 2013, a 7-month stint during National Service. With that, my company also became an official co-sponsor of NDP’13, rendering equipment support to my own team. Panda with a camera has grown over the years with creative assignments and collaborations from many companies and individuals, and my passion for the craft has never been more on fire than it is today. The smiles of appreciation I see on my clients’, collaborators’ faces when projects are completed really make it seem all worthwhile.

Jeremy Tan

Anglo-Chinese Junior College

During lectures, the pace of learning was so fast, that if your mind wandered off for even 5 minutes, you’d be totally lost. I was too busy doing my own thing after school to keep up with homework for my tutorials. That was how I fell behind during JC. I was just lost, and no one was waiting for me. The curriculum had to move on.

When the exams came around, I found myself floundering in a backlog of information. I had to learn from scratch what my friends had already understood months ago. I was so lost, I barely promoted.

When I found Alvin, everything changed. Not only was he a great teacher, he was a friend. He made everything that seemed so cold and dry, relevant and exciting. He brought abstract and foreign concepts down to earth. For the first time ever, I wanted to learn. The pursuit of knowledge became the focus, and grades were just a by-product. Before long my grades started improving, and from being one of the slowest students in class, I got 3 As and 1 B for my A levels.

Aside from grades, the more important thing I learnt from Alvin was that if I applied myself to whatever I wanted, I could succeed. It didn’t matter if it was math, or physics, or photography. You may not be the brightest in school, but as long as you put your mind to it, you can succeed. I decided to take time off school after army to pursue my passion. Photography and card flourishing. Card flourishing is the manipulation of playing cards to form visual displays of dexterity and skill. It is different from magic tricks as they do no revolve around illusion or deceit, but rather the visual and aesthetic aspect of manipulation. These passions soon became part of a new and exciting business: Virtuoso. We’re an online company teaching card flourishes, and very recently, we just released the first deck of playing cards designed for card flourishes. To our joy, it sold out within a week.

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