From left: British Prime Minister David Cameron, Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning and President Barack Obama, with Michelle Obama (far right)
12/11/2013 at 12:50 PM EST
"Photos can lie."
So says the photographer who captured the image of President Obama
, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt as they took the now-famous group selfie
at President Nelson Mandela's memorial in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
"Obama took his place amid these leaders who'd gathered from all corners of the globe," photographer Roberto Schmidt wrote on the global news agency blog, AFP.com
. "Among them was British Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as a woman … I later learned was the Danish Prime Minister."
Continued Schmidt: "Suddenly this woman pulled out her mobile phone and took a photo of herself smiling with Cameron and the U.S. president. I captured the scene reflexively. All around me in the stadium, South Africans were dancing, singing and laughing to honour their departed leader."
Schmidt explained that the memorial was "more like a carnival atmosphere, not at all morbid," and that the American First Lady was not upset at her husband, as the photo seemed to imply.
"I read on social media that Michelle Obama
seemed to be rather peeved … but photos can lie," Schmidt blogged. "Just a few seconds earlier, the First Lady was herself joking … Her stern look was captured by chance."
The photographer admitted that he was sad and upset that so many people focused on that single photo and that too many are "obsessed with day-to-day trivialities, instead of things of true importance."
"I thought the world leaders were simply acting like human beings," Schmidt wrote, "like me and you."