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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The whole story behind the most famous #selfie - @AFP Correspondent

The story behind "that selfie"

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a picture with Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt next to US First Lady Michelle Obama during the memorial service for South African former president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. (AFP Photo / Roberto Schmidt)

By Roberto Schmidt

So here’s the photo, my photo, which quickly lit up the world’s social networks and news websites. The “selfie” of three world leaders who, during South Africa’s farewell to Nelson Mandela, were messing about like kids instead of behaving with the mournful gravitas one might expect.
In general on this blog, photojournalists tell the story behind a picture they’ve taken. I’ve done this for images from Pakistan, and India, where I am based. And here I am again, but this time the picture comes from a stadium in Soweto, and shows people taking a photo of themselves. I guess it’s a sign of our times that somehow this image seemed to get more attention than the event itself. Go figure.

Anyway, I arrived in South Africa with several other AFP journalists to cover the farewell and funeral ceremonies for Nelson Mandela. We were in the Soccer City stadium in Soweto, under a driving rain. I’d been there since the crack of dawn and when I took this picture, the memorial ceremony had already been going on for more than two hours.
From the podium, Obama had just qualified Mandela as a “giant of history who moved a nation towards justice." After his stirring eulogy, America’s first black president sat about 150 metres across from where I was set up. He was surrounded by other foreign dignitaries and I decided to follow his movements with the help of my 600 mm x 2 telephoto lens.
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. We are in Africa.

(AFP Photo / Roberto Schmidt)

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. 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.
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. 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. 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.

(AFP Photo / Roberto Schmidt)

It was interesting to see politicians in a human light because usually when we see them it is in such a controlled environment. Maybe this would not be such an issue if we, as the press, would have more access to dignitaries and be able to show they are human as the rest of us.
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.

During Mandela's memorial service in Johannesburg. (AFP Photo / Roberto Schmidt)

The story behind "that selfie" - Correspondent


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

#Surf's Up: #Thundercloud



You've never seen a wave like this!

The Thundercloud crowd funding campaign has been launched as a means of securing the needed funds to finish this independent surf documentary. Based around one of the most spectacular days in surfing history, June 8th 2012, when a swell of massive proportions arrived at Cloudbreak, in Fiji, right in the middle of the ASP World Championship Surfing Tour Event.
You've probably seen the pictures in the magazines about this day but Thundercloud is the full story in motion picture, going deeper than you think. With interviews and accounts from the world's best surfers, that challenged themselves in the South Pacific Ocean that day and survived. Thundercloud shines a light on the dark history of the area, re-enacting the murder of King Ratu Imanueli, that lead to the island of Tavarua being handed over to the opposing tribe as a peace offering and how that would effect course of surfing history for years to come, as USA investors sought to create an exclusive surf resort in the area.
We hear from Tavarua Island's Jon Roseman, the Attorney General of Fiji and the man that lobbied the government to change the decree in 2010, Ian Muller, leading to the liberation of the exclusive wave rights in Fiji.
As Thundercloud Reef was open for the world to enjoy, we recount the awesome swells of 2010 & 2011. And of course, all the drama and action of the WCT event and subsequent free surfing session that re-wrote the rule book and set the bar for paddle surfing into the future. All this and more in a 60+ minute documentary called Thundercloud.
To help make this ground breaking story grace the big screen the world over. Go to www.pozible.com/thundercloud Pledge your donations there for rewards and support an independently produced documentary about one of the most prestigious waves in the world and all the history associated with it.



Thundercloud

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