BP Photoshops Crisis Center Photo With Stunning Ineptitude

BP Photoshopped Crisis Center photo

On BP's "Response in pictures" site, one photo, purported to be taken on July 16, 2010, sat for days, unquestioned. The photo shows BP's Houston Command Center, a desk with some massive monitors, lots of complicated things happening on them, and employees monitoring the situation in the Gulf. But all is not as it seems.

Yesterday, AmericaBlog took a good, hard look at the photo—but in retrospect, a mediocre, slightly firm look would have sufficed. The photo was altered in Adobe Photoshop CS4 (last year's model, it should be noted). That's bad enough—the last thing BP needs is to cover up anything they're doing right now—but what really stings is how insanely incompetent the editing was. It's insulting to anyone who's played around with Photoshop: any 15-year-old DeviantArt user could have done this job without detectable artifacts, and BP's "professional photographers" did a ridiculously amateur job.

Even worse, metadata on the photo suggests it may have been taken way back in 2001—look at that "Created:" date in the bottom left corner of the above photo. Now, that kind of metadata isn't necessarily reliable; many amateur photographers simply neglect to change the date on their cameras after purchase, which leaves the metadata inaccurate. And whoever took and/or edited this photo is decidedly an amateur. But it's also not necessarily wrong, which would make the an incredibly misleading fake—it would mean BP is reusing a nine-year-old photo that's of a totally different subject than claimed.

The story was picked up by Gizmodo and the Washington Post, which forced BP to respond. BP explained that three of the screens in the Command Center were blank in the photo, and the photographer stuck three static images in there instead. The spokesman provided the original photo and claimed "there was nothing sinister in the photo alteration." It's not too encouraging that BP is shifting blame to a photographer and somehow claiming the company had no knowledge of heavily altered photos it posted in its "good press" area.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one—you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

Add New Comment


  • Michael Valkevich

    Wow, that is poor. Given the circumstances and the consequences, borders on unbelievable.

  • Chris Reich

    While I hardly consider this story a "smoking gun" and more of a dribbling water pistol, I do think BP PETROLEUM deserves every bit of scrutiny it gets.

    I'm happy to see the story of the Lockerbie Bomber's release being loosely tagged to BP. They did after all lobby the government (British) to allow them to do business with Libya. We know they cut engineering corners in the gulf. We know they cut corners on land in the US.

    So is a poorly Photo Shopped image proof of high crimes? Not really. But I'm happy to see BP kicked for any reason after their permanent damage to the seas of the Americas.

    Chris Reich

  • Siddhartha Herdegen

    True, there's no smoking gun or sinister intention, but I do think it's worth pointing out. While I agree with Dan that using last year's software release is hardly worthy of ridicule, the fact that BP would use altered photos in an attempt to be more open is fair game.

    At the very least BP should have noted the photo had been altered rather than assume no one would notice or care.

  • Ron Round


    Are you really that anal? I thought there was some sort of smoking guy in your story, but instead you criticize a poorly altered photo? As for saying a 14 year old could do it, well, I'm a 44 year old and wouldn't know where to start. And mon dieu, using year old software - what a crime! I've been happily using my word perfect software for a decade and see no need to "upgrade".

    I know you are paid by the word, but geez, I'd rather hear you talk about the flugg you found in your navel than such an inane and meaningless story.