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Updated: July 22, 2010 21:38 IST

BP admits photographs doctored

Narayan Lakshman
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In this screen shot taken from Americablog.com, a digitally altered image BP posted on its website over the weekend of its Gulf oil spill command centre in Houston. Photo: AP
AP In this screen shot taken from Americablog.com, a digitally altered image BP posted on its website over the weekend of its Gulf oil spill command centre in Houston. Photo: AP

BP has further added to the tally of public relations disasters following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. On Wednesday, allegations yet again emerged that the oil giant had doctored photographs showing a series of vessels working on the sea surface of the ruptured well.

In the third such allegation of photograph-doctoring The Gawker website said it had received a tip-off about a BP photograph taken from inside a helicopter which, while it suggested the helicopter was in the air above the sea, was actually a shot taken from a static, grounded helicopter on the deck of a vessel at the spill site.

The Washington Post reported that BP spokesman Scott Dean had sent it the original photograph, which indicated that the photographer had “pasted in blue sea where the edge of the landing pad was showing”. Mr. Dean was also quoted as saying that the photographer had further adjusted colours and contrast so that the interior of the helicopter was brighter.

Major embarrassment

Reports suggested that while such attempts at doctoring the photographs were minor, “the embarrassment was major” as they came at a time when BP was embarking on a damage-control exercise to persuade the American public that it was being open and transparent.

In an earlier incident, BP had again effectively admitted to wrongdoing when a different blog website reportedly exposed a doctored image from BP’s Houston office. This showed “a technical team in front of a large projection screen [where] the image on the projection screen had been enhanced using Photoshop”.

The Post said in that case too, Mr. Dean also provided it with the original photograph, in which the screen appeared to be entirely white because of the light contrast with the rest of the room. The newspaper reported that Mr. Dean had said the photographer used “the colour saturation tool” to show “a clearer version of the same image on the projection screen”.

He further said that the altered helicopter and headquarters photographs would be “promptly taken down from the BP website”. He added that the original and altered versions would be placed on BP’s Flickr website so people can compare them.

The company is already under enormous pressure for social gaffes after its CEO Tony Hayward participated in a glitzy yacht race in the United Kingdom at a time when thousands along the Gulf coast were struggling to save their livelihoods in the wake of the oil spill.

Further the company received negative press regarding its alleged efforts to lobby for a prisoner transfer agreement between the governments of the U.K. and Libya, efforts that coincided with BP signing a major oil deal with Libya and the subsequent release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, accused in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, from a Scottish jail.


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