December 11, 2013

Agence France-Presse

I guess it’s a sign of our times that somehow this image seemed to get more attention than the event itself,” Roberto Schmidt says of his now-famous picture of President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt taking a photo of themselves at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

After Obama spoke, Schmidt writes, he noticed him sitting with a woman “I wasn’t able to immediately identify”: Thorning-Schmidt.

Anyway, suddenly this woman pulled out her mobile phone and took a photo of herself smiling with Cameron and the US president. I captured the scene reflexively. All around me in the stadium, South Africans were dancing, singing and laughing to honour their departed leader. It was more like a carnival atmosphere, not at all morbid. The ceremony had already gone on for two hours and would last another two. The atmosphere was totally relaxed – I didn’t see anything shocking in my viewfinder, president of the US or not. We are in Africa.

As to suggestions Michelle Obama was less than pleased with the president’s antics: “photos can lie,” Schmidt writes. “In reality, just a few seconds earlier the first lady was herself joking with those around her, Cameron and Schmidt included. Her stern look was captured by chance.”

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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