Brittany plays with Logan after reading a bedtime story to him on April 12, 2018 at her home in East Lansing, Mich. Every night, Logan wears a nebulizer for a breathing treatment that alternates between using budesonide and albuterol, which helps reduce his symptoms of asthma. "It releases some of that tension around the chest area so it's not as tight and it won't cause him to wake up, because sometimes the cough can wake him up in the middle of night," Brittany said. "That's how bad it is." (Photo By Nic Antaya / GroundTruth Project)
“For Him” follows Brittany Slater and her then 2-year-old son, Logan, in their journey to Brittany’s 2018 graduation from Michigan State University. Faced with dropping out, homelessness and becoming a single mother, Brittany carved her own path to graduation. Eight years later, she walked across the stage — with Logan in her arms.
Being a parent is not uncommon among the 50,019 students at MSU. Between 5 and 10% of students are parents, and roughly one-third of those students are single parents. Despite this, a lack of understanding from professors and peers still remains.
“I’ve had understanding professors that have kids that know what it’s like, that have went to school with kids,” Brittany said. “I’ve had also professors that are like, ‘That’s not my problem, figure it out.’”
Brittany’s determination for success is contagious. She gives 100% to her studies, work, faith and to Logan.
“If I’m ever having a stressful day or stressful time – if I just look at him and he looks back at me and we have that moment. It’s like it makes everything worth it. It makes me forget about all of our problems,” she said.
Photographing Brittany and Logan pushed me as a storyteller. This was the longest time I had spent working on a photo story. Following their life solidified my approach to working on photo stories. Looking back on that first day of photographing Brittany and Logan, I had no idea how much our time together would shape me as a photojournalist.
As photojournalists, we are fortunate when people let us into their lives. There must be a trust established between the photographer and the person being photographed to truly understand and tell the complete story. I learned that building that relationship is the most important aspect to me.
I visited Brittany and Logan roughly twice a week over the course of the three months leading up to her graduation. I looked forward to spending time with them. Brittany and I shared a lot of laughs and I felt like we connected right away.
I found points of connection between my life and Brittany’s. I’m a first-generation, low-income college student. I was raised by a single mother. I feel these shared experiences helped me relate to Brittany’s situation, and my understanding was translated through my photographs.
After hearing all of Brittany’s past challenges and witnessing her then current struggles as an MSU student, I hope her story inspires others to keep pushing forward. By sharing Brittany’s story, I hope to create empathy and change the minds of people who previously dismissed the situations people like Brittany face.
As I made the final images, I knew Brittany walking across the stage to receive her diploma with Logan in her arms was one of the biggest achievements in her life. To this day, Brittany is one of the most inspiring people I have met. Her character inspired me to work even harder and improve myself as a photojournalist and, more importantly, as a person. I can still see her smile.