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Photographer Of Obama Selfie Disappointed In Media Attention



On Tuesday, the above image of President Obama taking a selfie at the Nelson Mandela memorial with UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmist became a big topic of conversation.

The image sparked controversy concerning whether it was appropriate for the President to engage in frivolous behavior while attending the memorial service of the late anti-apartheid leader. It also suggested that the First Lady wasn’t too pleased with the President’s behavior as well.

The photographer, Robert Schmidst, would now like to address those claims.

In his AFP blog post to the world, Schmidst writes, “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.”

“I took these photos totally spontaneously, without thinking about what impact they might have. At the time, I thought the world leaders were simply acting like human beings, like me and you,” he adds.

Of claims Mrs. Obama was displeased by her husband’s actions Schmidst says, “I later read on social media that Michelle Obama seemed to be rather peeved on seeing the Danish prime minister take the picture. But photos can lie. 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.”

“For me, the behaviour of these leaders in snapping a selfie seems perfectly natural. I see nothing to complain about, and probably would have done the same in their place,” Schmidst continued. “The AFP team worked hard to display the reaction that South African people had for the passing of someone they consider as a father. 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.”

“I confess too that it makes me a little sad we are so obsessed with day-to-day trivialities, instead of things of true importance.

“I guess it’s a sign of our times that somehow this image seemed to get more attention than the event itself. Go figure.”

Thank you Robert Schmidst for giving us some more insight and clarification on the President’s “selfie”.

Yes, sometimes as humans we’re too engulfed in the trivialities of every day life we forget to see the bigger picture.

What are your thoughts on Schmidst’s post?



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  • I agree, most folks don’t go beyond the image, tweet, whatever. Knowing that, you have to conduct yourself accordingly when you’re in public space. There’s a time and space for selfies, and funerals aren’t one of them. You know how I know? Cause #funeralselfies is a thing. LOL

  • twanatells

    I thought this picture was hillarious