Spill, Daniel Beltrá's photography

Daniel Beltrá Spill

Oil Spill #4: Oil mixed with dispersant rises up to the surface near one of the relief wells. Gulf of Mexico, United States, 18 May 2010.

Oil Spill #1: A plume of smoke rises from a burn of collected oil. A total of 411 controlled burns were used to try to rid the Gulf of the most visible surface oil. Gulf of Mexico, United States, 17 June 2010.

Oil Spill #6: Oil covers the surface of the Gulf of Mexico in the vicinity of BP's Deepwater Horizon spill source. Gulf of Mexico, United States, 17 June 2010.

Oil Spill #18: A C-130 plane sprays dispersant on oil leaked from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico. In all, 2 million gallons of Corexit were used, with the majority being pumped beneath the surface of the water. Gulf of Mexico, United States, 21 May 2010.

Oil Spill #17: A ship cuts through a band of heavy petroleum on the surface of the water. A substantial layer of oily sediment stretches for dozens of miles in all directions from the wellhead. Gulf of Mexico, United States, 6 May 2010.

Oil Spill #9: Oil-free paths from boats attempting to clean up the crude spill off the coast of Louisiana. Gulf of Mexico, United States, 24 June 2010.

Oil Spill #15: A ship motors through oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill caused extensive damage to the marine and wildlife habitats as well as the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. Gulf of Mexico, United States, 18 May 2010.

Oil Spill #19: Oil leaked from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead washed into the shore on the NE pass of the Mississippi Delta. The crews arrived too late to protect the marshlands from the oil. Instead, containment booms were used to corral the oil in order to keep it from spreading further. Mississippi River Delta, United States, 27 May 2010.

Oil Spill #3: Boats gather near remaining oil platforms by the site of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, leaving oily wakes as they move through the polluted water. Nearly one third of all US oil production comes from 3,500 such platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf of Mexico, United States, 18 May 2010.

Oil Spill #7: From 3,000 feet, a sheen of oil covers the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf of Mexico, United States, 17 June 2010.

Artist's Statement

The oil-stained, blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico swirl in my mind’s eye like a grotesque painting. I worked off the coast of Louisiana during the spill, where approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil were released into the Gulf waters. The resulting photographs were taken from three thousand feet above, giving perspective to the environmental devastation below.

On 20 April 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico killing eleven crewmen and injuring seventeen, becoming the world’s largest marine oil spill. More than 600 miles of coastline were affected and show lingering signs of oil and dispersant. Layers of crude oil are still spread thick on the ocean floor, radiating far from the wellhead site. Scientists have determined that up to 75 per cent of the oil from BP’s disaster remains in the Gulf environment.

The Spill series is a first-hand account of this tragedy, and reveals our society’s obsessive dependence on petroleum. Every day in the United States, we use four times the volume of the oil released into the Gulf.

Oil is the lifeblood of America’s economy, says the US Department of Energy website; this statement has become an ironic metaphor for our current culture of consumption.

About the photographer


1964, Madrid, Spain



Based in

Seattle, United States

About Daniel Beltrá

Daniel Beltrá began his photographic career with the Spanish National Agency, EFE, and for the next decade, he covered hard news and featured stories as a correspondent in Madrid for the French photo agency Gamma. In 1990, Beltrá began his collaboration with Greenpeace, becoming one of their main assignment photographers. Beltrá’s work has taken him to all seven continents, including expeditions to the Brazilian Amazon, the Arctic, the Southern Oceans and the Patagonian ice fields. He is a fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers and regularly volunteers in conservation expeditions worldwide.

His work has been recognised with many international awards, including the World Press Photo in 2006 and 2007, the inaugural Global Vision Award from POYi in 2008, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year in 2011 and the Lucie Award, Deeper Perspective Photographer of the Year in 2011. His book Rainforests: Lifebelt for an Endangered Planet won the Prince’s Rainforest Project Award in 2009. The images from the book were exhibited in Paris, Berlin and London and HRH The Prince of Wales presented the book to world leaders at the Copenhagen Climate Change summit that same year.

His work has been featured throughout the world including The New YorkerTimeNewsweekNational GeographicThe New York TimesLe Monde and El País. His work has also been featured in many books on the environment and climate change. His most recent book Spill, published by Catherine Edelman Gallery, is a chronicle of two months of photographing the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil spill. The images from Spill have been shown in galleries throughout the world, most recently at the Roca Gallery, Madrid.