It’s a lot like a wedding, except to your dad. At purity balls, a relatively new Christian religious ceremony that’s gaining popularity, American girls (some as young as four) vow to their fathers that they’ll remain virgins until marriage.
The formal events tend to include dinner, a keynote speech, and ballroom dancing, and the girls get decked out in, um, white gowns. The father, as “High Priest of their home and family,” makes a pledge to protect his daughter’s “purity” during the affair. Often, they exchange purity rings.
Stockholm-based photographer David Magnusson captures all this in Purity, a book that’s out in August by Bokforlaget Max Strom. Magnusson first learned about the rituals in a short article in a Swedish magazine, and was fascinated. (Sweden, although an historically Christian country, has a largely secular culture.)
Over the course of five months, Magnusson traveled to purity balls in Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona. On each occasion, he spent an hour interviewing and photographing the father-daughter pair. “I want to see your relationship as a father and a daughter,” Magnusson told his subjects, “in light of the decisions you have made.” The poses were up to the subjects themselves, undirected by Magnusson.
Critics see the ceremonies as anti-feminist and heteronormative. But Magnusson, after spending time with his subjects, found his views evolving. He writes, in the book’s introduction, that he was struck by “how loving and responsible the fathers were. But at the same time, it is clear that the girls–in many cases, young women–are independent, strong, and insightful.” Ultimately, he says, his “purpose hasn’t been either to belittle or glorify the ceremonies–the interpretation is all up to the eye of the viewer.”
Still, it’s hard not to shudder when you hear: “You are married to the Lord and your father is your boyfriend.” This is what one dad tells his daughter in this Nightline Prime documentary on the balls.
[h/t Feature Shoot]