Striking, Creepy Photos of Christian “Purity Balls”

America: land of the free, home of the… thoroughly fucking weird? It’s hard to know what else to say about these striking and frankly terrifying portraits by Swedish photographer David Magnusson, which capture the institution of the Purity Ball: a religious rite wherein girls pledge not to have sex until they’re married. All the photos (which we spotted at Feature Shoot) depict the girls and their fathers, who glow with pride at the thought that their little girl won’t be despoiled until someone puts a ring on her finger. It’s hard to know where to start with this: the notion of sex as “impurity,” the fact that it’s all daughters and no sons, the idea of dressing a preteen girl in something that looks awfully like a wedding dress. But as with all the best photography, these images speak for themselves — as Magnusson himself says, he hasn’t aimed “to belittle or glorify the ceremonies… the interpretation is all up to the eye of the viewer.”

(Note: the original link to David Magnusson’s website above went to the site of another photographer by the same name. You can now click through there — or here — to reach the correct Magnusson’s work!)