THE tactic is more redolent of Stalinist Russia than the rarefied air of an architectâ€™s office. A â€œteam photoâ€ of employees of Lord Foster, who has designed some of the worldâ€™s most famous buildings, has been â€œairbrushedâ€, downgrading the importance of the architectâ€™s former right-hand man.
In the original photograph Ken Shuttleworth, a former senior partner, is in pride of place beside Foster. Shuttleworth is credited by many with being one of the creative forces behind Fosterâ€™s â€œgherkinâ€ tower in the City of London.
In the published version, however, included in a new book of Fosterâ€™s work, Shuttleworth has been shunted sideways and back one row into the crowd of some 350 workers.
Graham Phillips, a senior partner who was away when the main photograph was taken, has been pasted into the prime slot at Fosterâ€™s right hand.
News of the picture doctoring will add to a dispute in the world of architecture over whether Shuttleworth â€” nicknamed â€œKen the Penâ€ for his rapid, immaculate draughtsmanship â€” has been given credit for his role in the gherkin.
Shuttleworth, 52, left Fosterâ€™s firm in December after almost 30 years to start a rival practice, Make. He employs 18 former Foster staff.
This weekend he was adamant that there was no rift with his former master, but was mystified about his demotion to the ranks. â€œI donâ€™t know why he has done it. I was there for 30 years and did a huge amount of work for him and it was fantastic. It is quite sad,â€ he said.
Shuttleworth added that the first he had known about the change in the photograph, originally taken in 2002, was when he was in a bookshop buying the fourth volume of Fosterâ€™s Works, published this month.
â€œI was flipping through it and noticed the picture at the back and thought: that wasnâ€™t like that,â€ he said.
Another former Foster employee, who declined to be named, was more forthright. â€œIt was because he was one of the bigwigs who left that they moved him,â€ she said. â€œNone of the others in the photo who left have been moved. A bit of competition is fair enough.â€
She added: â€œHe (Shuttleworth) looks like a nobody now (in the picture). It is just silly.â€
While Shuttleworth describes his relations with Foster as â€œamicableâ€, others have said that his key role in the design of the gherkin â€” headquarters of Swiss Re, the insurance firm â€” has not been fully acknowledged.
Hugh Pearman, architecture correspondent of The Sunday Times, said: â€œWith large architectural projects, it is never one person. Ken has as much right to claim Swiss Re as Foster.â€
Earlier this month Foster made no mention of Shuttleworth in his acceptance speech for the Stirling prize, Britainâ€™s leading award for architects.
Asked about Shuttleworth afterwards, Foster said: â€œHe was one of many talents to have contributed to the office.â€
He said of Shuttleworthâ€™s new practice: â€œI donâ€™t know what he is doing. I havenâ€™t seen anything built.â€
The altering of photographs to improve the looks of models and celebrities is widespread in the modern media.
Use of the technique to downgrade the status of an individual, however, has become less widespread since the collapse of communist regimes in eastern Europe. The art reached its zenith under Stalin, the Soviet dictator. When fellow communists such as Trotsky and the police chief Nikolai Yezhov â€” nicknamed the Poison Dwarf â€” fell from favour and were killed, they were removed from official photographs altogether.
Shuttleworth, by comparison, has thrived since his downgrading. He has even begun winning commissions from Foster, including a plan to regenerate a site at Elephant and Castle in south London.
He is known by those who have worked with him for his laid-back, friendly style. This contrasts with Fosterâ€™s reputation as a strong-willed, sometimes domineering leader.
Some experts believe Foster may have removed Shuttleworth to make it clear that the two menâ€™s paths have parted.
â€œFoster needs to remain the brand name in his business and Shuttleworth has become more famous by standing on his own two feet,â€ said Robert Booth, editor of Building Design magazine.
Foster shows no signs of faltering. At 69 he is still one of the worldâ€™s most influential architects. He recently declared that his work designing the new Beijing airport was the â€œlargest project on the planetâ€.
A spokeswoman for Foster said the team photograph was merged with another later picture because not all key staff were present: â€œSome people may have been moved in the process, but everyone present on that day is represented.â€