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Purity Portraits: Young Virgins Promise Their Purity To Their Fathers Until Marriage

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Stockholm-based photographer David Magnusson captures bizarre father-dauther portraits in the U.S. These portraits are inspired by a very disturbing ritual called Purity Balls, a relatively new Christian religious, wedding-like ceremony that inspires American virgin girls (as young as four years of age ) to promise purity to their fathers.

The formal events tends to include ballroom dancing, a keynote speaker, and a lot young girls in white dresses. During the ceremony, the fathers, the so-called “High Priest of the home and family,” make a pledge to protect their daughters’ “purity” during the affair; often times they exchange purity rings.

“You are married to the Lord and your father is your boyfriend.” – A father says to his daughter during a Purity ball.

Intrigued and fascinated  by an article about the topic, Magnusson took the iniciative to investigate these balls, and its participants, further.To create this photographic series, the artist spent five months traveling to and attending purity balls in Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona. On each occasion, he spent about an hour interviewing and photographing the father-daughter pair. The interactions between father and daughter on camera were up to the subjects themselves and not at all directed by Magnusson.

Many of us would think that the photographs look and feel odd; and not that there is anything weird about hugging and holding your father’s hands, but the way in which these pairs interact…most of us can agree that it is a bit creepy. The artist, however, keeps his judgement out of the picture and he tells his audience that for the most part the fathers are caring and respectful, and the daughter possess their own character and are often very independent. How true this is to each of us personally differs, of course. This very point, the idea of relative truths and opinion, is what Magnusson is most interested in:

“The purpose hasn’t been either to belittle or glorify the ceremonies–the interpretation [of the photographs] is all up to the eye of the viewer.”

The series of photographs are now part of Purity, a book of text and images put together by the artist himself. Purity comes out in August, and you can order it here. If you are interested in learning more about this ceremony you can check out The Virgin Daughters, a documentary that further examines the nature of Purity Balls. (via FastCo Design)

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My three primary recurring subjects are vintage clothing (for the way it continues the life of the past into the present, for its rich structures and colors and shapes, and for its anthropomorphic presence as a stand-in for the figure); plant materials in the form of sticks, leaves, and flowers (for too many reasons to list); and found objects. They combine in appropriate or surprising juxtapositions, sometimes purely as a visual “poem” of sorts and (if I’m lucky) sometimes as an image with real psychological resonance. Objects occasionally reappear in other contexts and take on new meanings, like a repertory company of actors playing different roles in different plays.

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