The attention given to a photo showing President Barack Obama taking a selfie and Michelle Obama‘s supposed reaction to it at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service has given way to a bit of sadness for the man who took the picture.
On Wednesday, AFP photo journalist Roberto Schmidt said that he’s sad that such a trivial moment has eclipsed the emotion of the ceremony.
“I guess it’s a sign of our times that somehow this image seemed to get more attention than the event itself. Go figure,” Schmidt wrote on a blog about the taking of the Obama photo.
The picture, which included Obama, UK prime minister David Cameron and Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt taking a photo of themselves on Thorning-Schmidt’s smartphone halfway through the four-hour ceremony, has since gone viral on social media and spawned a thousand reaction stories from the media.
The photo was one of many taken by Schmidt, who decided to follow Obama’s movements through his telephoto lens after the president’s “stirring eulogy”
“I doubt anyone could have remained totally stony faced for the duration of the ceremony, while tens of thousands of people were celebrating,” said the photographer, who noted how the atmosphere at the FNB Stadium was “totally relaxed.” “For me, the behavior of these leaders in snapping a selfie seems perfectly natural.”
Nevertheless, the significance of the memorial was something Schmidt and his AFP colleagues made sure to capture.
“The AFP team worked hard to display the reaction that South African people had for the passing of someone they consider as a father,” he added. “We moved about 500 pictures, trying to portray their true feelings, and this seemingly trivial image seems to have eclipsed much of this collective work.”
In addition to commenting on the selfie photo, Schmidt put to bed talk surrounding Michelle Obama’s stony-faced appearance in the picture. Rumors surrounding the First Lady’s appearance have been highlighted on Twitter and some web sites, which stated that it was due to jealously at the attention the blonde-haired Thorning-Schmidt was receiving.
“Photos can lie,” Schmidt said regarding the pic. “In reality, just a few seconds earlier the First Lady was herself joking with those around her, Cameron and Thorning-Schmidt included. Her stern look was captured by chance.”