I was surprised that my initial reaction was so strong and that I was so quick to judge people I knew so little about. The idea struck me that what separated us was perhaps only the way in which we had been influenced by the culture in which we grew up and the values it had instilled in us.
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 will perhaps 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. I believe that our view of the world around us is formed by where we come from, where we have been, and who we believe that we are – and that one of our biggest challenges is to try to understand that which seems most strange to us.
Young girls who attend a Purity Ball make a vow to remain sexually abstinent until marriage, “to remain pure and live pure lives before marriage”. Their fathers sign a document in which they promise to protect their daughters in their choices. Many of them exchange rings as a symbol of their vows.
David Magnusson has photographed and interviewed young girls and their fathers who participated in Purity Balls in Louisiana, Colorado and Arizona, in 2011.