A candid photo snapped by Jerusalem Post photographer Marc Israel Sellem of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the end of their joint press conference in Jerusalem Tuesday inadvertently created a viral sensation.
The photo showed Netanyahu pointing toward someone in the audience at the King David Hotel press conference, with Merkel to his right. The shadow created by his index finger formed a shadow above Merkel’s lip, giving the vague impression that she sported a mustache similar to Adolf Hitler’s.
“I was just trying to find a good place to take pictures of them,” said Sellem Tuesday night. “I positioned myself between Merkel and Netanyahu, and I shot the photographs that I needed for the story. Then at the end, when I saw Netanyahu begin to point, I thought it would be interesting so I just started shooting, something like seven pictures a second.”
Later, when Sellem was sorting the photos on his computer, he noticed the image of Merkel, thought it was a unique picture, and included it in his email of photographs that go to the editors of the Post and its sister publication in Hebrew, The Post.
One of their online editors immediately saw the unique photo of Merkel and placed it on the Post’s website.
Within minutes, it had been shared over 1,000 times and retweeted hundreds of times.
Both Sellem and The Jerusalem Post editorial staff were inundated with queries from media outlets around the world, asking if the photo had been retouched with Photoshop (it hadn’t been) and asking permission to reprint it.
The Jerusalem Post management initially made a decision not to publish the photo or make it available to other media outlets, but once it proliferated on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, the avalanche was irreversible.
Local Israeli TV news reports and websites posted the photo, as well as international outlets, from the Drudge Report to the Daily Mail.
A shell-shocked Sellem said late Tuesday night that he hadn’t intended for the photo to cause an uproar.
“When I saw the photo on my computer, I thought that it was unique and funny. It was not my intention to insult Merkel in any way or to make any kind of Nazi connotation with the photo.”