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BP digitally alters press photo, confesses it's a fake

A blogger spotted a photo of BP's Houston command center that had quite visibly been Photoshopped to add in more on-screen camera action. BP confessed and shared the unaltered original.
Image: Original and altered photos of a BP command center
Above is an altered image of BP's Houston command center, and below is the photo that BP released after the alteration was uncovered by a blogger, who spotted it due to poor Photoshop handiwork.Marc Morrison

It's been a long season of embarrassment for BP, but leaking oil isn't what the blogosphere is ripping the company for today. A site called Americablog spotted a press photo of BP's Houston command center, ostensibly taken on July 16. The image had quite visibly been Photoshopped — badly — to include more on-screen camera action.

Once word got out — the story was picked up by the Washington Post, where it was then spotted by the tech blog Gizmodo and others — BP 'fessed up. A spokesman admitted that the image was altered, said that a photographer had inserted shots where the TV screens were blank, and provided the original image.

"We've instructed our post-production team to refrain from doing this in the future," said the spokesman in an e-mail to the Washington Post.

Though the command center alteration doesn't seem to be an attempt to hide facts or confuse the public, it heightens skepticism for the company at a time when it should be trying to build trust. As the Americablog reporter John Aravosis wrote, "I guess if you're doing fake crisis response, you might as well fake a photo of the crisis response center."

As it happens, the command center shot isn't the end of the issue. Today, Aravosis published evidence of another altered press photo, this one depicting a meeting from the failed "top kill" maneuver. "How many other crisis response photos from BP have been faked?" wrote Aravosis. "Did they fake any videos?"

Please don't tell us that the people in those sucking-it-up-and-taking-responsibilty ads are actually paid models!

Catch up with Wilson on Twitter at @wjrothman. Fourth-grade Photoshop skills required.