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Purity


During a Purity Ball young girls promise to “live pure lives before God” and to remain virgins until marriage. In return, their fathers sign a commitment promising to protect their daughters’ chastity. Sometimes rings are exchanged as a symbol of their vows. David Magnusson has photographed and interviewed young girls and their fathers who have participated in Purity Balls in Louisiana, Colorado and Arizona. 

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Purity


During a Purity Ball young girls promise to “live pure lives before God” and to remain virgins until marriage. In return, their fathers sign a commitment promising to protect their daughters’ chastity. Sometimes rings are exchanged as a symbol of their vows. David Magnusson has photographed and interviewed young girls and their fathers who have participated in Purity Balls in Louisiana, Colorado and Arizona. 

 
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“When I first heard about the Purity Balls I imagined American fathers terrified of anything that might hurt their daughters or their families honor. 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.

The more I learned, the more I was surprised that I had been so quick to judge people I knew so little about. 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. In Purity I wanted to create portraits so beautiful that the girls and their fathers could be proud of the pictures in the same way they are proud of their decisions – while someone from a different background might see an entirely different story in the very same photographs.

To 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.”

 
 
 
Laila, Antonio and Maia Sa Colorado Springs, Colorado
Will and Nicole Roosma Tucson, Arizona
 
 

 

The book Purity was published by Bokförlaget Max Ström in 2014 during the exhibition at Fotografiska, The Swedish Museum of Photography, in Stockholm. 

Purity was financed by the Swedish Committee of the Arts and has been awarded The Scanpix Grant, 2011, Portrait of the Year at Picture of the Year Sweden, 2012, The Documentary Photography Award from The Museum of Work, Sweden, 2013, and was selected by Markus Schaden for The Kessel Book Award - Best Books Of The Year, 2014.

 
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Portraits


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Portraits


 
 
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Installation Views


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Installation Views


The exhibition Purity at Fotografiska – The Swedish Museum of Photography in Stockholm, 2014.

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In The Light Of The Decisions You Have Made


By Ayperi Karabuda Ecer

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In The Light Of The Decisions You Have Made


By Ayperi Karabuda Ecer

 

Photography inevitably gravitates around time, light and control. Around their presence, around their absence, around combining them at best.

On one hand it aspires to haunt unpredictable, candid moments. On the other hand it is dependent on set agendas managing access and purpose.

Behind each shoot, in all genres, there are control mechanisms linked to the interests of the commissioner and to those of the end viewer.

All organized by someone to make a point about something.

David Magnusson has spent years using his skills in the world of photographic assignments. He has learned his craft covering major stories of our times, documenting what is perceived as “real” while unfolds. He has photographed thousands of people, each time reflecting on what they need to convey. Always focused on bringing back an answer to a burning question.

With his project Purity he steps back from proposing answers and allows himself to formulate visual questioning. He literally offers a frame for the photographed to step into and share control. He sets the format and the mood by offering the location, selected and carefully set up, asking fathers and daughters to pose “in the light of the decisions you have made.”

David Magnusson’s focus is not on the individuals, it is on the relationship. The strength, the tenderness, the domination, and all the contradictions springing from adult men seeking promises which will guide young girls’ intimate lives and their infinite need for love and protection.

Each shoot takes up to an hour. That is no longer a “moment”; it is a long time to maintain intensity. Yet some of the fathers and daughters spend the hour physically clinging to each other.

The light is what makes this project visually coherent. All photographs are organized to be shot an hour and a half before dawn. Yes, it is beautiful. Many of the fathers refer to light in their interviews. One of them quotes Psalm 40: “I was plucked from a miry pit and sat into a marvellous light”, another thinks that “as Christians we’re supposed to be the light in the world.”

David Magnusson’s lighting appeals to those who pose but its airy subtlety also adds a surreal tone which contrasts with the solid convictions of the photographed. The setting seems to be from a fairy tale but we are confused by the cast.

David Magnusson knows that what is missing in a frame is as important as what is present. As fathers and daughters intensely try to embody the presence of God, one wonders what fears and hopes lie behind their mutual determination? Who are the men that inspire such fright and such need for protection? What past scars do the fathers want to redeem? Will these girls ever be able to love anyone more than their own progenitor? How much do our own demons suggest interpretations?

Purity is a personal visual project that offers a stage for intense emotions and questions.

As with all images, these carry different meanings depending on where and by whom they will be viewed. Ideally they need to be accompanied by the interviews and a balanced introduction.

But as with so many other images they will also be encountered divorced from initial purpose and control in an unpredictable journey.

Purity is a project about contradictions, love and domination, beauty and fear, relying on the very singular complexities of the photographic process.

 
 
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The Book


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The Book


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David Magnussons compelling portraits offer a nuanced view on the Purity Ball phenomenon in America. During a Purity Ball young girls promise to live pure lives before God, and to remain virgins until marriage. In return their fathers sign a commitment promising to protect their daughters chastity. Sometimes rings are exchanged as a symbol of their vows. After reading about the Purity Ball phenomenon, Magnusson became increasingly captivated by the growing popularity of these homegrown rituals. Equipped with a large-format camera, he portrayed fathers and daughters who participated in Purity Ball ceremonies from 2010 to 2011 in Louisiana, Texas, Colorado and Arizona. Magnusson took the pictures at sites near their homes; in the suits and ball gowns they wore at the ceremony. "I wanted to create portraits that were beautiful; images that the girls and their fathers would like to see hanging on their walls at home, while someone from another cultural background might experience the very same portraits in an entirely different way." For Magnusson, the project Purity is about investigating how the culture that surrounds us influences our values. By raising questions, rather than providing answers, Magnusson challenges us to map our principles as well as judgments.

Published by Bokförlaget Max Ström in 2014
Hardcover, 33.6 x 27.7 x 1.3 cm, ISBN 978-9171262929
Available for international orders at Amazon UK.

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Articles and Reviews


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Articles and Reviews


In Conversation With David Magnusson by Barbara Davidsson, Los Angeles Times, 2014, United States

Welcome To The Bizarre And Beautiful World Of "Purity Balls" by Priscilla Frank, Huffington Post, 2014, United States

Striking Portraits of Fathers and the Daughters Whose Virginity They’ve Pledged to Protect by David Rosenberg, Slate Magazine, 2014, United States

Purity Balls, Plan B and Bad Sex Policy: Inside America's Virginity Obsession by Jessica Valenti, The Guardian, 2014, United Kingdom

Enthaltsame Mädchen in den USA: Nicht ohne meinen Vater by Lena Greiner, Der Spiegel, 2014, Germany

Photographing US ‘Purity Ball’ ceremonies on BBC World Update, BBC World Service, 2014, United Kingdom

The Christian Daughters Who Pose With Their Fathers And Pledge Chastity Until Marriage by Micah Smith, The Daily Mail, 2014, United Kingdom

Striking, Creepy Photos of Christian "Purity Balls" by Tom Hawking, Flavorwire, 2014, United States

Photos Of Fathers And Daughters At Their “Purity Balls” by Alan White, Buzzfeed, 2014, United States

Creepy Yet Gorgeous Portraits of Purity-Pledging Daughters and Dads by Erin Gloria Ryan, Jezebel, 2014, United States

Book Review: Purity by Blake Andrews, Photo-Eye, 2014, United States

Ball Of Innocence: Daughters Vow Allegiance With Fathers by Elina Chebbocha, Wonderzine, 2014, Russia

Portraits Of A Controversial Practice: A Photo Series On Purity Balls by Matthew Zuras, Refinery 29, 2014, United States

Controversial Photographs Of Fathers And Girls Who Have Promised Virginity Until Marriage by Ellyn Ruddick-Sunstein, Bust, 2014, United States

Purity Balls: Like A Wedding Except To Your Dad by Carey Dunne, Fast Co. Design, 2014, United States

Portraits of Fathers With Their Daughters Who Have Pledged Virginity Until Marriage by Alyssa Copelman, Feature Shoot, 2014, United States

David Magnusson and "Purity" by Abigail Smithson, The Photographer Discloses, 2014, United States

David Magnusson: Purity by Aline Smithson, Lenscratch, 2014, United States

David Magnusson: Purity by Gregory Barker, Hotshoe, 2014, United Kingdom

Storslaget Om Döttrar På "Oskuldsbal" by Lena Kvist, Borås Tidning, 2014, Sweden

Mästerlig Fotojournalistik by Sebastian Johans, Upsala Nya Tidning, 2014, Sweden

De Lovar Papporna Kyskhet by Sindra Grahn, Kulturnyheterna, SVT, 2014, Sweden 

Flickor Som Går På Bal – För Att Fira Oskulden by Lotta Bouvin-Sundberg and Alexander Norén, Gomorron Sverige, SVT, 2014, Sweden

Papporna Som Skyddar Sina Döttrars Kyskhet by Malou von Sivers, Malou Efter Tio, TV4, 2014, Sweden

Portraits from America's Purity Balls by Lily Rothman, TIME Lightbox, 2013, United States

Balen Hyllar Oskulden by Linnea Nilsson, ETC Malmö, 2013, Sweden

Amerikanska kyskhetsceremonier i fotoutställning i Malmö by Azar Akbarian, P1 Morgon, Sveriges Radio, 2013, Sweden

Ren & Skär by Johan Malmberg, Helsingborgs Dagblad, April 27, 2013, Sweden

Nära Porträtt av Familjeideal by Clemens Poellinger, Svenska Dagbladet, 2013, Sweden