Did BP Fake Its 'Crisis Center' with Photoshop?

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BP's response to the months-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has taken two forms: Fixing the oil leak and fixing the company's public relations crisis. BP's "crisis center" in Houston would seem to do both, with BP releasing photos to give the impression that the crisis center is working hard and with Pentagon-level technology to responsibly address the spill. But what if the "crisis center" photos are fake? Liberal blogger John Aravosis of AMERICAblog has uncovered some very convincing evidence that BP's crisis center photos were produced using the photo editing software Photoshop. Here's the original photo:

Aravosis zooms in on seven different sections of the photo, showing evidence at each section that the photo was tinkered with. It appears that both the crisis center responders and the images on the display screen were pasted onto the photo. Here's just one of Aravosis' damning zooms. Click through for all seven:

Coordinating with his commenters, Aravosis writes, "an astute reader noticed that the meta info for the photo says it was created in 2001, not July 16, 2010 as claimed on BP's site. It looks like BP took a photo from 2001, and in order to make it look like the command center in July of 2010, they pasted pictures of the oil well leaking over the old photo." The photos were later removed from BP's website. The Washington Post's Steven Mufson picks up the story from there.

Scott Dean, a spokesman for BP, said that there was nothing sinister in the photo alteration and provided the original unaltered version. He said that a photographer working for the company had inserted the three images in spots where the video screens were blank.

"Normally we only use Photoshop for the typical purposes of color correction and cropping," Dean said in an e-mail. "In this case they copied and pasted three ROV screen images in the original photo over three screens that were not running video feeds at the time."

However, as Aravosis points out, a professional photographer wouldn't be this unskilled in photoshop, and the "original unaltered version" still includes the people who were apparently artificially added onto the image. He quips, "I guess if you're doing fake crisis response, you might as well fake a photo of the crisis response center. Why do they need a fake photo at all? Don't they have a real crisis response center they could have used?"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.