A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in the case of the "selfie seen round the world"—which showed President Obama taking a cellphone photo with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt, while the first lady looks away in apparent disgust— it wasn't so.
"Photos can lie," wrote Roberto Schmidt, the photographer who captured the image and wrote about it on AFP. "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."
Schmidt says that the photo was taken some two hours into the event and that the mood of the ceremony was festive.
"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," Schmidt wrote.
"I doubt anyone could have remained totally stony-faced for the duration of the ceremony, while tens of thousands of people were celebrating in the stadium. 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."
Schmidt also expressed his disappointment that these few photos overshadowed the work that he and his colleagues did.
"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."
Read more at AFP.