BP's photoshopped spill response command center

The altered image BP released of its crisis command center, outed as a Photoshop job by bloggers (and apparently shot back in 2001).

AOL News (and many other outlets) report that BP's PR woes got even weirder today...

...when AMERICAblog's John Aravosis pointed to a poorly Photoshopped photo of the company's crisis command center in Houston which was published on BP's official crisis response website. The company has now come clean (sort of) to The Washington Post -- claiming this morning that it was the photographer who snapped the image who was responsible for inserting three extra video screens into a bank of monitors. It still remains unclear, though, precisely why the alterations were even made in the first place.
At the top of this blog post, the altered image (note that there's something going on in each and every one of those monitors).

Below, the image later released as "unaltered" by BP (note that some monitors are dormant).

And next, beneath that, the image I am confident is the REAL THING YOU GUYS.

BP released this image as "unretouched," but I'm skeptical.

Finally! This one's authentic, for sure.

(thanks, wawb)


  1. So… a ‘photographer’ took a random photo he had laying around from 2001, photoshopped it (terribly) without BP’s knowledge, and then they stuck it up on their website without realizing or approving it?

    Yeah right. I’m sure BP has a *tiny* bit more control over their PR than that. Because if that’s how haphazard the management of just their website is, then we’re doomed. Well, either way, we’re doomed.

    1. Yeah right. I’m sure BP has a *tiny* bit more control over their PR than that.

      The bigger the organization, the less likely that the people upstairs have any idea what their flunkies are doing. Frankly I’d be worried if the top management was spending their time scrutinizing website photos instead of trying to find a way to fix this environmental clusterf*** they created.

  2. The photographer in question (or at least the one whose name is embedded in the EXIF data, Marc Morrison) is no stranger to less-than-convincing ‘chopping. Check the really poor fake-tilt-shifts in his unlinkable flash gallery:
    http://www.marcmorrison.com/ (LeAann Rimes, George Foreman)

    BP partially threw Mr Morrison under the bus here, and from what I’ve seen, I don’t doubt that this cut-n-paste was his work. Inexplicable to me though is how hasn’t yet figured out that the Quick Selection tool is both faster and more accurate than the Polygonal Lasso ever was.

    1. The Photoshop monitor is even better as its running on a Mac, evidently running within a PC window. I can’t imagine anything more efficient than running Photoshop on a Mac (buggy as hell if its CS4) and virtualizing it on a PC. Brilliant!

  3. Bad photochop all around, but the 2001 metadata looks like more a mistake rather than malicious intent. Take a look at the screen in the upper right corner. Its available in both the original and photochopped versions. At the bottom of the screen is a datestamp, and it clearly (or rather fuzzily) says “07/16/10”. I’m calling this an actual photo of the room by a rather inept photographer.

  4. The only thing dodgier than an oil company is the government that’s hand-in-glove with them, day-in and day-out (until they need some PR ‘distance’ for political expediency).

  5. I know it is possible, but why on earth would they be watching all the videos in Microsoft Excel?

    1. In business technology, even pleasure should be in its proper cell on a professional spreadsheet.

  6. PS also, wtf is up with the bottom right ‘monitor’ in the new ‘official version’? It is the only monitor with the Win XP start button and taskbar displayed at the bottom, but the whole desktop size is far smaller than the actual monitor. Unless it’s VPN it makes no sense, and even still…. if it was a VPN there should be a window around the whole thing (which there clearly isnt).

    Also, I notice that the guy in the middle seems to be gazing blankly at a huge white screen in the new one. Is this an integral part of BP’s cleanup operations? Staring at monitors? Cos I’m a f-ing pro at that.

  7. Frankly I’d be worried if the top management was spending their time scrutinizing website photos instead of trying to find a way to fix this environmental clusterf*** they created.

    To be more precise, the public perception of their clusterf***.

  8. Not really wanting to defend BP here, but I’d assume that the “blank” pictures had been filled to quell “Why did they kill those three feeds”-conspiracies.

    Or perhaps they did cut the feeds because they show one of the old ones.

    1. It’s an interesting thing to try. If NASA could have used photoshop to make the flag on the moon wave and add some background stars, I’m sure nobody would have ever doubted the landing.

  9. definitely not defending BP either but it think someone is actually screwing with them on this one, i think someone had made a picture just dodgy enough to get past most peoples eyes but not also to get noticed if someone looks closely.

  10. I saw a photo of the BP ‘Crisis Room’ where one of the laptops turned towards the camera appeared to be displaying Farmville. I lolled.

  11. Might I recommend liberal use of the ‘healing brush’ tool over all those satellite photos of the oil spill as well?

  12. Ugh, it’s like they can’t help but humiliate themselves every other week. What kind of company will come out of the other end of this mess?

  13. with not use a path to free things?

    Just a hopefull thought, maybe all PS-professionals in the world declined working for BP – I definitely would have, no matter whats the money.

  14. I don’t think it’s uncommon to Photoshop these sorts of shots because I’ve done it myself and once for Chevron in one of their refinery control rooms.

    This was about 10 years ago because it was a photographers nightmare. One, long skinny room with all the consoles pushed up against one side. The only way to photograph it was to shoot it from several angles and Photoshop it together with the same dim lighting and the same tinkering shooting the monitors seperately and Photoshopping them in because of the wildly different exposures needed. Mine didn’t come out really well because I only had a few hours to do it, but I was able to learn how to use the Curves tool in Photoshop. This was done with a Hasselblad and Ektachrome and by the time I got the scans to Photoshop I was seriously out of time as the PR lady had to board a plane to NYC with or some such.


    This is I think three photos and a that chair in the foreground I think was shopped-in to cover something else – the tile floor was completely drawn in Illustrator and shopped in too along with the back wall being tinkered with. If you saw a hi-res version you’d see what a mess it is. A PR person brought me in, surprised all these guys working and I had to extemporize on the spot and do the best I could.

    I know some pictures and shopping is lousy, but you never know what prep the photographer had to work with and get it right back out. I’m sure BP’s people went “Great!” because they were in a hurry. That’s the reason for lots of this stuff or they thought they had to show something and this was bad judgment.

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