Haunted by that photo: One for the album?

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As Blur star Alex James discovered last week, it only takes 1,000th of a second for a badly chosen photo-opportunity to undo years of careful image control. Tim Walker peruses the gallery of shame

When you or I are snapped in compromising circumstances – fraternising with an unsuitable friend; canoodling with another man/woman; drinking too many shots, then calling in sick the morning after – we can just "de-tag" from Facebook and be done with it. But for politicians, popstars and public figures, erasing embarrassment is a little more difficult. That meeting with the unsavoury dictator; that silly group photo of your university drinking club – every image is preserved for posterity, and for the amusement of future detractors. Speaking of which, here's a selection.

Click here or on the image to view the gallery

The pictures we can't show you

Since it was widely published in 2007, the infamous snap of David Cameron, Boris Johnson and their privileged Bullingdon Club contemporaries posing on some Oxford steps has fallen out of use. It has been reported that the owners of the image, the school photographers Gillman and Soame, made a "policy decision" not to allow their pictures to be published following that dubious burst of publicity. George Osborne later featured in his own Buller pictures. It's said by some that Osborne planned to be Prime Minister from a very young age. For someone with such a sure grasp of his own ambitions, the Natalie Rowe episode must count as a major lapse in judgement. The image of the boyish George with his arm around Ms Rowe, a prostitute specialising in BDSM, sitting in front of what looks like Class A drugs, was published by the News of the World in 2005. The editor was Andy Coulson – whom Osborne later recommended for Conservative communications director.

And the pictures we wish existed...

Former News of the World hack Paul McMullan claims he once hid behind a bush somewhere in the Cotswolds, in the vain hope of snapping David Cameron out horse-riding with Rebekah Brooks – the pair, he insists, were once regular riding companions. The PM also ate dinner at Brooks's home over Christmas. Sadly, no seasonal snaps are available. Tony Blair, meanwhile, deftly evaded photographers at the christening of Rupert Murdoch's two youngest children on the banks of the River Jordan, where he acted as godfather to Grace Murdoch. Blair, reportedly clad head to toe in white, was not pictured in the subsequent Hello! magazine piece. Luckily for us, someone later blabbed to Vogue that he'd been present.

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