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Photoshopped BP oil spill pics discovered, BP fesses up

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 24, 2010 in Environment
BP makes photographs of its oil spill response available to the public. Some people have maintained that BP wasn't telling the truth with its pictures.
And now, with the discovery of doctored photographs, questions about BP's trustworthiness are being asked.
BP's website has a "Response in Pictures" page where people can see for themselves what BP says it is doing to respond to the oil spill. With news of the faked pictures, odds are good that folks will be spending rainy days scrutinizing BP photographs trying to spot more fakes.
The faked photos have not only cost BP public relations points, but have also lent credibility to those who have said BP was manipulating news and information about the spill in an attempt to cover up.
Others have hinted that BP was trying to manipulate the public by only allowing "happier" photographs to be published on its website. The documentation of the tragic consequences of the oil spill has come mostly from sources outside BP.
The first fake was found by John Aravosis at Americablog, who nicely pointed out that a command center photograph had been faked.
Aravosis then found a second doctored photograph, which BP had released, alleging it showed a "top kill exercise."
The third photograph was found by Brian Barrett, who is with Gizmodo. Barrett had found a photograph allegedly taken of the Deepwater Horizon site from a helicopter was Photoshopped.
All three fakes were detected last week.
Washington Post picked up the story from the blogs. Writer Steve Mufson wrote "The search for doctored BP photos is on. And it's a bit like finding Waldo in the famous game." Mufson points out that the changes made in the three doctored photographs are minor. BP's spokesman, Scott Dean spoke to Mufson about the photographs, claiming two were prettied up by a BP photographer, while the command center photo had been altered by an employee.
While BP removed the three photographs from the official BP site, it has posted them, along with the original photographs, on its Flickr site, as well as on a Facebook page, with a statement that says: "One of BP's contract photographers used Photoshop to edit images posted on the bp.com Gulf of Mexico Response web site.
Typical Photoshop uses include color correction, reducing glare and cropping. This week we learned of two images where cut-and-paste was also used in the photo-editing process. These cut-and-pasted images have been removed from the bp.com site.
For the sake of transparency, the original and edited images are posted below and can also be found on the BP Flickr page for comparison. We have also included an image that appears cut-and-pasted, but was edited using the color saturation tool to improve the visibility of a projection screen image.
Although BP is a private company, we've instructed the photographer who created the images to refrain from cutting-and-pasting in the future and to adhere to standard photo journalistic best practices."
Commentary on the fiasco has been mainly critical of the petroleum corporation. Energy Boom wrote, "With all the public scrutiny surrounding BP, it is absolutely amazing that the company not only continues to make such poor public relations decisions, but also continues to offer misinformation to the world."
Barrett wrote "... every time they fabricate an image like this, it undermines whatever little credibility they have left, along with all of the actual documentation of the massive undertaking this has been and will continue to be. It speaks to a company still more concerned with image than reality, in charge of repairing something so terribly broken that we can't afford to treat it with anything but total candor."
Public reaction is mixed, although a majority appear to to be upset with BP for the photographs. Edspyhill01 wrote at a Toyota forum, "Are you realizing yet BP is a rogue corporation? They are thumbing their noses at every single citizen of America." C.E. White responded by saying "... For goodness sake, some flunky wanted to make a better looking picture for the web site. It is a non-issue."
Over at DPReview forum, Ralf Schmaud asked "Are we really this used to a fake reality where everything is shiny and over saturated, that the original pictures ( which are just a little less dense composed and lack e.g. contrast on the presentation screens) would not have been good enough?"
Water Focus responded by saying "I believe the real issue here is BP's continual PR failures right from the start of this crisis."
The last word on the issue goes to Jarvie DeBerry, writing for NOLA. DeBerry said "... Next time your children ask why coloring within the lines is so important, tell them that one day a global energy giant, the fourth-largest company in the world, might pay them handsomely if they can pull off the trick."
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