'Selfie Seen Round the World' Photographer Speaks Out: 'Photos Lie'

It wasn't really a "selfie," much less a "funeral selfie," but the juxtaposition of Nelson Mandela's memorial, President Obama's playfulness, and FLOTUS's ostensible "stern look" was too much for the world to pass up.

And so "Selfie-gate" was born.

But amid the unserious speculation over the drama unfolding in front of the lens lay the truth, as seen only by the man who stood behind it.

Taking to the AFP blog, photographer Roberto Schmidt, the man who snapped the now-infamous photo, broke his silence on the true story behind the "selfie seen round the world":

So Obama took his place amid these leaders who’d gathered from all corners of the globe. Among them was British Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as a woman who I wasn’t able to immediately identify. I later learned it was the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt. 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.

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.

Schmidt says he was perhaps more shocked than anyone that Michelle Obama was depicted by the media as being "rather peeved" about the activity taking place nearby.

"Photos can lie," the photog 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."

Schmidt insists he was merely trying to capture spontaneous photos of world leaders "acting like human beings, like me and you," since their public image is rarely left uncontrolled.

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

So there you have it. Or do you? Sure, one photo can lie — but four?

[top image via @AFPblogs]