The Independent 23 May 2015
A woman stands in a flowing white dress while a man holds her wearing a dark suit – the photo immediately appears like any portrait of a newly-married bride and groom.
But it is of a young girl with her father, preparing to make an entirely different pledge: one of virginity at a “purity ball”.
Swedish photographer David Magnusson took the evocative portrait as part of his “Purity” series of images capturing fathers and daughters joining the conservative Christian movement in the US.
He spent five months on four different trips in the country meeting the girls swearing to abstain from sex until marriage and their families.
He said his interest was sparked by an article about so-called purity balls, which have spread across 48 states, where fathers and daughters make pledges to each other committing to “live pure lives before God”.
“When I first heard about the purity balls I imagined angry American fathers terrified of anything that might hurt their daughters or their honour,” Magnusson said.
“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 being invited by their daughters.”