Photographer David Magnusson is not American, nor is he Christian, nor does he have a daughter who has pledged her virginity to him in one fringe tradition that nearly unanimously squicks mainstream America out. But that didn't stop him from traveling cross country to assemble images of fathers and daughters who have chosen to enmesh themselves in "purity pledges," and the results are haunting, creepy, weird, and kind of gorgeous.
Magnusson says that when he first started his project, he was very uncomfortable with the concept of American girls pledging their purity to their dads. That's not something they have in Sweden (and, to be frank, it's probably one of many reasons that liberal Americans are constantly citing the Nordic country as a left wing utopia).
But he says the project made him more open minded about this particular approach to sexuality. Magnusson writes,
...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.
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.
All images via David Magnusson, published by Bokförlaget Max Ström, 2014. Used with permission.