Photos Show The Uncomfortable Reality Of Purity Balls, Where Daughter Pledge Virginity To Fathers

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Many girls (and women) would rather stick pins in their eyes than discuss you-know-what with their fathers. And, for the most part, that feeling is probably mutual.

But one such phenomenon is sweeping the Christian community, with teenage girls (some even younger) publicly pledging to abstain from sex until they are married.

Known as 'Purity Balls', these fancy religious events are a celebration of the daughter's virginity. Daughters often wear ball gowns, spend the evening eating and dancing with their fathers, before vowing to remain 'morally pure' until married.

Fascinated by the Purity Ball phenomenon, artist David Magnusson set out to capture the sentiment behind a gesture many of us would find unusual.

We caught up with him to find out more - see more photos below.

purity ball

What piqued your interest in purity?

"When I first found out about Purity Balls, I thought it was all about protecting families honour. But as I learnt more, I understood that the fathers, like all parents, simply wanted to protect the ones that they love, in the best way they know how. It was also often the girls themselves that had taken the initiative to attend the balls. They had made their decisions out of their own conviction and faith, in many cases with fathers who didn’t know what a Purity Ball was before first being invited by their daughters.

"I was struck by the idea that what set us apart wasn’t anything more than how we had been influenced by the culture we grew up in and the values it had instilled in us."

What is your personal opinion about the purity trend in America?

"It’s most definitely a complex phenomenon, but I want to be very clear that I’m not trying to present any answers through my work. To me, Purity is a project about trying to understand something that is very different from the culture I'm used to, and my intention has always been to raise questions, leaving the interpretation up to the viewer, allowing them to make up their own minds about the Purity Ball phenomenon.

"In Purity I have tried to take photographs of the girls and their dads that are so beautiful that they can look at them with pride – while someone from a different background perhaps will see a completely different story in the very same photograph. For me, Purity is about how we are shaped by the society in which we grow up and how we interpret the world through the values we incorporate as our own."

At any point, did you voice your opinions to the dads?

"Both the girls and their fathers asked me how I thought the portraits might be viewed outside of their context, and while they all understood it might be something very controversial, they were proud of their decisions and not afraid to share them even though they realised that their views might prove strong reactions. And I think that is something which is very brave of them to do.

I also believe that my personal opinions isn't what’s important in this project. I think its much more interesting and rewarding to try to understand something that’s strange to you as a viewer – and that it’s important to remember that trying to understand isn’t the same as needing to agree.

What did the dads have in common, in terms of what they wanted for their daughters?

"It was striking to hear the diversity and individuality of the reasons behind their decisions. Many of their choices are rooted in a strong faith, but at the same time, they are all individuals with their own backgrounds, feelings and hopes for their lives to come."

  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity
  • David Magnusson/Purity

The book Purity was published by Bokförlaget Max Ström in 2014 during the exhibition at Fotografiska – The Swedish Museum of Photography in Stockholm, and is available for pre-order at Amazon. More about David Magnusson on www.davidmagnusson.se

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