Photographer Who Captured Obama Selfie Moment Now ‘Ashamed of Mankind’


Last week’s memorial for Nelson Mandela had more than its share of media moments, from the fake sign language interpreter to the handshake heard ’round the world. But nothing caught on quite as tenaciously or curiously as what we’ll dub “The Great Obama Selfie Beatdown.”

It started when Helle Thorning-Schmidt, prime minister of Denmark, pulled out her phone to grab a selfie of her sitting with President Obama and British PM David Cameron. Roberto Schmidt, a photographer for Agence France Press, captured the curiously contemporary moment. And before you could say “meme,” the entire narrative of the event shifted.

Forget about the legacy of one of the most inspiring and influential figures of the past century. Was the selfie a colossal break of etiquette? Did it reveal shocking new levels of self-involvement? Was Michelle Obama as torqued by the whole thing as she looked?

Selfiesatfunerals, a tumblr blog that mainly chronicles teens exercising bad judgement, shut down. “Obama has taken a funeral selfie, so our work here is done,” explained the blog’s final post. “Thank you, world, and good night.”

Photographer Schmidt was appalled at what he hath wrought. “Why do people care about a selfie?” he asked the New Republic. “This is a sad reflection of our society.”

“The AFP team worked hard to display the reaction that South African people had for the passing of someone they consider as a father,” Schmidt continued on an AFP blog. “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.”

Then it was time to take apart the reaction to the reaction, with Ed Driscoll of PJ Media casting Schmidt’s remarks as part of a lamentable trend of media kowtowing to official power and labeling the photographer “a wannabe court eunuch ashamed that he made the most powerful man in the world look silly.”

And now, of course, it’s your turn to offer the reaction to the reaction to the reaction to the reaction. Feel free to have at it in the comments down below.

(via NewsBusters)

Image credit: Photograph by Roberto Schmidt/AFP-Getty Images/NBC

  • 3ric15

    It was a MEMORIAL not a funeral. There is a difference. And this is the part I don’t understand: it wasn’t even Obama who pulled out his phone to do the selfie, it was the PM of Denmark.

  • just a though

    if it had been Bush (or Romney) Pelosi and Reed would be screaming to have him impeached. Jon Stewart and Colbert would mock this to no end. Why on earth anyone wants to make excuses for Obama is unbelievable. He made a faux pas but thats really it — but he does look very foolish, very improper for a world leader to behave…no dignity, in my opinion. No wonder Mr. Obama wants to limit the press photographers! My biggest complaint about the photog is he’s the one that edited and sent those series of pictures. if he felt the image didn’t properly portray the situation, he never should have sent it. if there was more to the image, he should have explained it or ensured more was know about the situation. that is journalism 101.

  • Michael Palmer

    Dave is an awful PM, but not seeing a problem with a silly selfie.

  • Booray Perry

    I didn’t see Colbert but Stewart did mock it….

  • qb

    we have to take into account the actual environment in which the memorial service took place when reacting to the obama selfies. It was nowhere as solemn and hushed as a typical church service where a pin drop could be heard. The service in SA, literally a celebration of the life of the great man Mandela featuring noisy crowds singing, chanting and dancing, made everyone present relaxed and even transiently drop their guards and judgement as in the case of three senior politicians.

  • 3ric15


  • 3ric15

    Bush actually did post a selfie from the memorial (if you don’t believe me its on the NY Times) and so far Youtube search is not showing me anything like you claim.

    If you want someone to behave maybe you should be talking to the PM of Denmark, who was actually the one who pulled out her phone, NOT Obama.

  • 423423423

    well that´s why woman should stay in the kitchen…..
    they have no place outside the bedroom and the kitchen….

  • BP1999

    Don’t bother talk to the the Danish PM, she’s out of reach. But she is very wise. She has assured all of us Danes that there is Nobody who intercepts our phone conversations, because the law says that it is not legal. – I get so tired so tired so tired.

  • Matias Gonua

    I just can’t stand two despicable men smiling, not at a funeral not anywhere. On top of that, everybody knows that powerful figures at that level plan every move they make, this does not look fresh at all. I’m glad this picture had the level of critics it had.

  • Manners are lost

    The fact is still that it is bad manners. Also, the president should have had enough sense to tell her them to wait until after the memorial.

  • 322rt523r54

    imagine the drunkg g.w. bush at the memorial….. lol….

  • Black Mesa Images

    Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. The biggest issue is respect, I could care less about who did it. It’s an outright showing of disrespect.

  • Chuck Coverly

    Really?!?! Where are THOSE manners written?

  • Woody ONeal

    Settle down everyone.

    We all know the world revolves around Obama.

  • harumph
  • faloc

    AFP running out of things to write about?…the usual thing about the French, everything they do is pointless….

  • SweMachi

    A celebration of Mandela’s life and achievements . Two of the most powerful figures in world politics sharing a friendly moment . One black, one white . What’s the problem ?

  • eminos

    Wow, why so sensitive…

  • Sam Camilleri

    Let’s not forget, it was more of a celebration.

  • Girl with a camera

    Funny that no one else is remarking about all the other people in the photo not “paying attention” to what was going on. I would gather to say that this was before the memorial started or after. Geez people lighten up!

  • Renato Murakami

    Whatever, Mandela wouldn’t have minded. Quite the opposite I’d imagine.

  • Cpmamiejo

    It is the photographers job to take pictures, not determine how people are supposed to eact to them!

  • arcu

    The dumbing down of the human race progresses

  • Jim Johnson

    Did you see the memorial? People were laughing and singing and dancing. It was not really a solemn occasion, but a raucous celebration of a life punctuated by a few speeches.

    A selfie at a funeral that is a solemn occasion is bad manners, but this was not.

    BTW, I want my urn to be shot from a cannon at my funeral— selfies are optional.

  • byno

    Michelle is pissed because he is taking a selfie with two whites!

  • dissapointed_veteran

    I don’t think I can read Petapixel any more, The right-wing editorializing is reaching fever pitch (to the point where on previous articles, Petapixel writers were jumping in the comments to spout proto-Fascist tea party nonsense). I’m no huge fan of Obama, he’s not leftist enough for me actually, but petapixel’s disdain for him is hilarious. I just imagine the writers at home drinking rebel yell with their stars n’ bars behind them, frothing at the mouth watching Fox News.

    In the 1980s, you right wing crazies absolutely hated Mandela, so that makes the outrage even more hilarious.

  • Scott M

    Your comment is hilarious. “Obama, he’s not leftist enough for me actually…”
    I think Petapixel is balanced, politically. They just link news and blogs that have photography interests.

  • Leon-in-Ntz

    Hooray . . . I agree with you, but another VERY important point . . . that image is only a fraction of a second!!! Mrs. Obama could have been in thought. Thank God she was not about to sneeze . . . they would have impeached the President!!!

  • Becca Gulliver

    Has anyone actually seen the selfie? Until I have personally seen it I am just going to assume that they were playing Angry Birds.

  • Nick V

    Doesn’t look like a selfie. Looks like someone took their picture.

  • Nick V

    True story. :)

  • Nick V

    At least Fox News is on top because they aren’t bowing to the feet of the administration. Meanwhile CNN and MSNBC are losing ratings like ice in the Arctic Poles… No wait, there is still ice there… Well, CNN/MSNBC are drowning thanks to the RIGHTIES

  • John Adkins

    Obama can do no wrong, even when he does.

  • Kynikos

    Clever. Report anything at all to avoid having to ask why Mandela went to prison in the first place. (What’s a little terrorism among friends, anyway?)

  • donthasslethehoff

    Common sense needs to be written down?

  • donthasslethehoff

    Right, it was about Mandela’s life, not selfie moments for self absorbed egomaniacal ‘leaders’.

  • chocolategalls

    ummm for all the negativity…let’s not forget some people are still awed with Obama as the first black president and that he’s just a really nice guy that wants equality for everyone !!

  • derekdj

    It’s actually a great example of why the White House (and any future administration) won’t allow unfettered access to pool photographers. The amount of wasted air time addressing non-scandals created by a split second image, that doesn’t describe or tell anything of the moment. We live in an age of hyperbolic media and public commentary exacerbated by crowdsourced stories with little follow up from the peanut gallery.

    This is also a great example of why we need “good” journalism and can’t rely on social media as a gauge for legitimate topics. Watching news organizations read off Twitter posts and Instagram responses is the laziest form of reporting I’ve ever seen. This and the Castro handshake was blown up by partisan reporting and the dumb echo chamber of the internet. A selfie or group shot at a public event is hardly on the same level as George Bush Jr handholding Saudi Arabian princes in camp david.

  • bgrady413

    Yeah not a selfie, not even a little bit.

  • Eric__

    Naturally, the one “who came among us” (Chris Matthews quote) is above sin and error…

  • Eric__

    And he’s really good at killing people too!

  • harumph

    Did I say it was a selfie? And what’s the difference anyway?

  • Eric__

    Quasi-Oedipal, no?

  • bgrady413

    I am more interested in the other photos in this series where the first lady looks even angrier than that, and eventually sits between the two of them. Those are more precious, left winger or not the leader of the free world should probably refrain from this sort of celebrity type behavior, your the leader of the free world not a movie star, act like you are representing millions of people, not like your new film just came out. That’s what upsets me about this, he is not acting appropriately for his position in power memorial service or not, the president should be above these sort of public embarrassments.

  • derekdj

    But, according to the actual report, it was the Danish Prime Minister who asked the President and Cameron to take the photo. It would’ve been rude for a fellow world leader to turn down the photo, especially since the memorial was more of a celebration. He was responding appropriately to another peer’s request. It’s like like they got up and twerked each other and made duck faces.

  • bgrady413

    They might as well have twerked, man that would have really set off the first lady.

  • Andrew Doran

    It seems as though EVERYONE in the comments has missed the point of the article. Schmidt is ashamed of mankind because instead of growing up and focusing on important things, you are all bickering politics over something completely unimportant. Congratulations on proving his point.

  • Peter Neill

    It was a celebration, something to be remembered, with joy, the joy of celebrating the amazing life of a wonderful man whom died with his family by his side, having accomplished so much in his life. A selfie is just one of many great ways to remember been at an event like that, naysayers, grow up and moan about something important, as its getting kinda silly now

  • Matt

    Wow, really? At first, I was a thinking it was disrespectful, going on what was reported in head lines. Then I read the different news reports and came to the conclusion that it is a non-issue. I have to agree, the haters are making a big deal about this are just wrong. They should be ashamed of themselves for making this into something it is not.