David Magnusson, ‘Erin Hope Smallwood, 13 years & James Smallwood. Bellevue, Louisisana’, Pictura Gallery

“When I first heard about the Purity Balls I imagined American fathers terrified of anything that might 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 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 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. 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.
To 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.”

  • David Magnusson

Series: PURITY

To me purity means that if I stay pure I can have my dream,
I can do what I want and I can have that special moment with
my husband once we get married. I realized that my biggest
dream is to go to France, and I can’t do that if I get pregnant
before marriage. I also realized that I have someone to go to
when I have temptations to help me through them, and that
was really special to me.
Because of my faith I know that I never have to be alone and
that I’ll never have to worry about the bad things in my life.
I can always trust God to help me through life and to keep the
temptations away from me. The main thing is that I know that
God loves me. I know that I don’t have to be alone and I know
that I don’t ever have to worry, because God is always going to
be there to help me through whatever happens.
The Purity Ball was a chance to make a vow with my daughter
that she won’t make the same mistakes that I’ve made. It’s a
promise that her life will totally be God’s will, and that she
won’t stray and make the bad choices that I made when I was
young. Both my wife and I made poor choices as young adults,
and our kids have in ways had to live with the consequences
of our choices. I think that’s why we as a family hold purity to
a very high level today. I just pray that Hope keeps her faith
and fully relies on God to answer her prayers, and that she
doesn’t go off on her own without Him.
The vows we took that night at the ball stated that I, with
God’s help, would be there for Hope in the coming years to
help lead her and guide her in the right direction. I promised
that I would be open and understanding and that we would
communicate with each other on any problems in her life.
It was something both of us took very seriously. And it’s important
for me to help her in her purity, which is something
that many young people struggle with today. Hope and I have
become a lot closer after the ball, we share a deeper emotional
connection, and I believe that she feels a lot more at ease sharing
certain things with me.

About David Magnusson