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12/11/2013

Obama's Selfie Destructive Behaviour?

Obama-selfieAFP photographer Roberto Schmidt took the "selfie" capturing a candid - and some say inappropriate - moment with U.S. President Barack Obama, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British PM David Cameron at memorial services for Nelson Mandela.

 
Who knew the most famous photo from the historic and emotional farewell to South Africa's Nelson Mandela would be a photo of a selfie?
 
Certainly not AFP photographer Roberto Schmidt, who along with much of the world's media spent Tuesday in the pouring rain at Soccer City stadium in Soweto for a four-hour Mandela memorial service.
 
After U.S. President Barack Obama gave a stirring tribute to Mandela, Schmidt decided to follow him - with the help of a 600 mm x 2 telephoto lens - from the podium back into the crowd of the world's political who's who.
 
It was Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who was sitting between Obama and British PM David Cameron who pulled out her phone and captured the selfie, something Schmidt said he just shot instinctively, admitting at the time he wasn't sure who she was (as he writes in a blog about the photo, "I’m a German-Colombian based in India, so I don’t feel too bad I didn’t recognize her! At the time, I thought it must have been one of Obama’s many staffers.")
 
The photo went viral and the indignation was swift. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh accused Obama of trying to make the memorial about himself - to steal the show. Social media was aghast. 
 
Then began the soap opera. "Obama in the Doghouse After Taking Too-Friendly Selfie with Danish PM," read Gawker, suggesting that Michelle Obama was scowling in the photo because of a little flirtation with Schmidt and that the "President better pray there's an open flower shop somewhere in Johannesburg."
 
But Schmidt, clearly taken aback by all the fuss, provided some important context to the photo in his blog. "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," the photographer wrote. "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."
 
He also notes that the day was less funeral than a dancing, celebrating, singing tribute to life. "The atmosphere was totally relaxed – I didn’t see anything shocking in my viewfinder, president of the U.S. or not," said Schmidt. Adding, "We are in Africa."
 
He laments that among the 500 images AFP moved that day, this is the one everyone is talking about.
 
"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.
 

Michelle Shephard is the Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recipient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm

Comments

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Is there any length you won't go to cover for Obama? I don't recall you guys doing the same thing when Bush was photographed looking callous or silly. Must help to be of the 'right' political persuasion.

WHO CARES!

I'm kind of surprised the oil industry didn't jump all over this and raise gas prices by 50 cents.

In Africa you say? Where funerals are fun, selfies are taken, Presidents are booed, crowds act and are treated like rowdy students and a rash of break-ins and thefts happen to guests in attendance.

Mandala was too old to effect much positive change, he won't be around for the train wreck.

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