"When I first heard about the Purity Balls I imagined angry American fathers terrified of anything that could 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 knew how. It was also often the girls themselves that had taken the initiative to attend the ceremonies. 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. 

Coming from Sweden, one of the most secular countries in the world, I wanted to challenge my own prejudices and try to understand this phenomenon that was very strange to me, without presenting any answers or conclusions. To explore how our own experiences affect our reactions to what we encounter, I wanted to photograph portraits so beautiful that the girls and their fathers could be proud of the pictures in the same way as they are proud of their decisions – while someone from a different background might see an entirely different story in the very same photographs.

"Purity" is intended to make us reflect on how we are shaped by our society and how we interact with world through the values we embrace as our own. It’s an exploration of how the message and meaning of a photograph is something very personal and subjective, always changing, depending on the viewer."

The book "Purity" was published by Bokförlaget Max Ström in march 2014, during the exhibition at Fotografiska, The Swedish Museum of Photography, in Stockholm. The project was produced with support from the Swedish Committee of the Arts and was awarded The Scanpix Grant 2011, Portrait Series of the Year Sweden 2012, The Documentary Photography Award 2013, The City of Skövde Culture Grant 2014, and was selected for The Kassel Book Award - Best Books Of The Year, in 2014. 

"Purity" has been featured in international media such as TIME Magazine, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, i-D Magazine, The Independent, Der Spiegel, Stern, La Repubblica and BBC.

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