Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt defended taking a “selfie” with President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
According to Thorning-Schmidt, the display showed that the world leaders are “just people who have fun.”
“It wasn’t inappropriate,” Thorning-Schmidt told the Danish publication Berlingske (as translated by The Telegraph). “There were lots of pictures taken that day, and I just thought it was a bit fun. Maybe it also shows that when we meet heads of state and government, we too are just people who have fun.”
According to Thorning-Schmidt, the daughter-in-law of former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, the event was largely festive.
“There was a sadness, but it was basically a festive event that also celebrated a man who has lived for 95 years and achieved so much in his life,” She said. “There was dancing on the stands… And then we took a really fun selfie.”
Cameron also jokingly defended the impromptu photo, telling a session at the House of Commons that he was simply being polite.
“In my defense I’d say that Nelson Mandela played an extraordinary role in his life and in his death in bringing people together,” Cameron said. “And so of course when a member of the Kinnock family asked me for a photograph I thought it was only polite to say yes.”
Meanwhile the AFP photographer who took the photo, Roberto Schmidt, saw the trio’s behavior as “natural.”
“At the time, I thought the world leaders were simply acting like human beings, like me and you,” Schmidt wrote at the AFP blog. “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 added that impressions people got of first lady Michelle Obama from the picture were not wholly accurate.
“[P]hotos can lie,” he wrote. “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.”