UPDATE:

The Associated Press emailed TheBlaze a statement regarding the photo. It doesn’t explain much, only notes that the caption for the photo has been updated to note why the young girl behind the photo reacted the way she did:

The Associated Press on Monday took and distributed six photos of Gov. Romney’s visit to an elementary school in Fairfield, Va., to its member news organizations and customers.

One image showed Mr. Romney as he was crouching down to pose for a photo with the schoolchildren. The picture received a caption addition on Tuesday to better explain what was happening. The caption addition was as follows:

CLARIFIES THAT STUDENT IS REACTING BECAUSE MITT ROMNEY WILL BE POSING FOR A PHOTO DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF HER AND HER CLASSMATES – Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney poses for photographs with students of Fairfield Elementary School, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, in Fairfield, Va. A student, right, reacts as she realizes Romney will crouch down directly in front of her and her classmates for the group photo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

TheBlaze asked for further clarification regarding the decision to publish the photo in the first place and has yet to hear back.

Original story below.

Sometimes the story of the moment during campaign season has nothing to do with what a candidate says, or even what is said about a candidate. Instead, it has to do with how the media captures a moment. And that includes pictures on the trail. Enter the Associated Press (AP).

The AP on Monday published a photo showing Romney at Fairfield Elementary School in Fairfield, VA, during a campaign stop. And while plenty of photos were taken, there’s one that’s grabbing attention. It portrays Romney bending over in front of a young girl who has a shocked look on her face. And there’s very little context given. Here’s the photo along with the AP’s caption:

Embarassing Mitt Romney Picture Bending Over Published by AP

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney poses for photographs with students of Fairfield Elementary School, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, in Fairfield, Va. Credit: AP

There were other pictures taken, and they seem to give some sort of context (and shows the girl in the background is more excited than shocked):

Embarassing Mitt Romney Picture Bending Over Published by AP

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney poses for photographs with students of Fairfield Elementary School after stopping at their school to greet them, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, in Fairfield, Va. Credit: AP

Adding to the intrigue, as we pointed out on the blog this morning, the story of the visit to the school is quite touching. Via ABC:

FAIRFIELD, Va. – Mitt Romney ordered his motorcade to make an abrupt U-turn in rural Virginia today, after zipping by a group of elementary school students waving in the front yard of the school, so he could go back and meet them.

It was the candidate’s decision to make the impromptu stop, an aide said, Romney standing beside Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell as a group of roughly 100 squealing students, who had since retreated inside Fairfield Elementary School, were promptly marched back outside of the school house by an advance staffer.

“Thanks for waving at me as I came by, I decided to come by and say ‘hi’ to you guys,” Romney told the kids, many of whom were fourth- and fifth-graders.

ABC even published video:

A quick search of the AP news site, however, mentions nothing about the stop or the kind move by Romney.

That’s worth mentioning because there are those who are using the picture to paint the candidate in an aloof way.

“Needless to say, however, none of the kids was more surprised than the young girl in AP photographer Evan Vucci’s snapshot above, which is best when viewed without a single shred of context,” Gawker writes. And on Twitter, the photo garnered a caption that pokes fun at not only Romney, but also the New Yorker (which has used the “Christ, what an asshole” caption multiple times):

Embarassing Mitt Romney Picture Bending Over Published by AP

Now, it’s completely possible the photo is simply a benign attempt to capture a fun campaign moment. But considering the reaction thus far and the way some have seized on it to complete the narrative of a clumsy Romney, it does raise the question of: Might not the AP have foreseen such an embarrassing picture becoming campaign fodder and might it have been best not to publish?

Maybe. Maybe not. Your thoughts?

UPDATE:

It seems some journalism ethics experts aren’t too impressed with the AP’s decision to publish the photo:

Steve Manuel, senior lecturer at Penn State’s College of Communications and an award-winning photojournalist, said the AP must have known how the image would be perceived.

“In this photo, while it may appear funny, AP knows exactly what viewers are thinking,” he wrote in an email. “It’s not legitimate news. AP knows that viewers are going to chuckle and imagine what the little girl is seeing, and it makes Gov. Romney appear a bit foolish. That isn’t the purpose or mission of photojournalism. … Candidate or not, it is not the mission of a news organization to place anyone in a position to be ridiculed or made fun of. Reporting the news is, and this is not newsworthy.”

[...]

The AP may have entered a bit of a gray area with this one. The photo was not altered or manipulated in any apparent way. But the National Press Photographers Association code of ethics offers some guidance.

“Treat all subjects with respect and dignity,” it says. The code also says: “Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects.”