Matthew LaVere, ‘10 came to Grand Valley in 2006 with a Bert Price Diversity Scholarship. Along with studying photography and business, he worked as a student in the photo lab in the School of Communications for three years. One of his most memorable experiences was traveling to Italy as part of the study abroad program. It was during his time at Grand Valley that LaVere set his standard for professional integrity and developed a level of confidence that would serve him later in his career. After initially achieving quick success in the industry without gaining a lot of respect, and realizing first-hand how fragile life can be, LaVere vowed to never waste time with superficial accomplishments.
After his graduation, LaVere landed a well-paying job photographing and making prints for a local oil painter and seemed to be on the track for success. While only six months out from graduation, he realized that his career wasn’t heading down the path he had mapped out for himself.
While doing some soul searching, LaVere watched some of his friends and family members succumb to addiction and suffer tragic accidents and illness. Instead of focusing on the things he couldn’t control, he decided to take control of his own life. He quit his job and took three months to travel, see friends, and reevaluate and redefine success.
His travels took him first to Italy, then across the Unites States. He stopped in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Chicago, Knoxville, and New York City. When he returned to Michigan, he had an empty pocket but a mind full of hope.
LaVere became a freelance photographer and photography assistant in his home town of Livonia. There he quickly gained clients through persistent and smart networking. In early 2012, he lost a well-paying job due to the employer’s budget constraints. Once again, LaVere was presented with the thought of what it meant to have good principles in his professional life. Instead of dwelling on the loss, he sent the employer a thank you note and asked to be kept in mind for future projects.
“A week later my former boss emailed me to say it was a big mistake to let me go and told me to hang in there,” LaVere said. “Four months later he chose me to be a second assistant for a big-named client. It was rewarding to know there was a photographer who appreciated my skills and qualifications after only working on one job together.”
This confirmed LaVere’s value of integrity and the role it plays in the type of success he strives for. Since 2012, LaVere said his career is either feast of famine; he never knows when his next project will come up. However, in 2013 alone he has been presented with once in a lifetime opportunities that have given him a name in the industry. His projects include working on the Rolling Stone cover of Eminem with the world famous photographer Mark Seliger, and advertising photography for AMC’s Low Winter Sun and ESPN Magazine.
The education he received from Grand Valley allowed LaVere to not only shape his creative vision, but also sharpen his networking and business skills, which he believes everyone should acquire. Overall he enjoyed and took something from all of his classes, though he particularly enjoyed his photography and business minor courses, as well as his courses taken abroad.
He still lives in Livonia, but regularly travels for work where he brings the talent and integrity of a Grand Valley alumnus to the people of Los Angeles, New York, and abroad.