Picasso’s Guernica is unique and unlike any other photograph or painting of a historical war scene. Historical photographs show scenes and capture moments in time, but when viewing them an intangible “wall” exists between the viewer and the photograph. The difference between photographs and original paintings is that the painting allows the viewer to break through the “wall” and actually experience the feelings and emotions expressed in the painting.
“We only see what we look at and to look is act of choice.” (“Ways of Seeing” 8) “The photographer’s way of seeing is reflected in his choice of subject, they are showing you what they want you to see.” (“Ways of Seeing” 10) Photographs are taken for a reason; there are many other angles or other scenes a photographer can choose from and it is up to the photographer to decide which one the viewer sees. In essence, the viewer only sees one aspect of the image captured with the lens of the camera. For example, “when only the head of a figure is visible in a picture which appeals to visual thinking—as distinguished, for example, from a news photograph which many make use of the sense of sight merely for the purpose of informing us of what went on in a certain place—that figure is always to be seen as being incomplete.” (Arnheim 11) The eye cannot continue beyond the borders of the photograph and the wholeness of the picture is lost.
In a painting, the artist has painted all of the elements to be seen simultaneously. “The spectator may need time to examine each element of the painting but whenever he reaches a conclusion the simultaneity of the whole painting is here to reverse or quality his conclusion.” (“Ways of Seeing” 26) A painting maintains its own authority, the painting does not capture momentary appearances it creates its’ own. In doing so the viewer becomes a part of the painting, when the viewer steps away from the painting he is no longer an influence or a part of the painting. Paintings can not be seen in two places at the same time, “when the camera reproduces a painting, it destroys the uniqueness of its image.” (“Ways of Seeing”13)The uniqueness is destroyed because the painting now travels to the spectator rather then the spectator to the painting. “The viewer, views it in his or her surroundings and it is influenced by their surroundings.