First, I think one needs to define what an artist is then we can determine if a Photographer is an artist.
I would define an Artist as someone who is able to convey the way they see the world, or at least they way they would like to see the world, to their audience through their art. This does not mean that the Artist will give you the complete picture, the whole idea is to give you enough information so that you will fill in the rest with your interpretation. Art is cerebral and intuitive.
An easy example of this would be the works of an impressionist painter like Claude Monet. Did he give you a clear image as to what he was trying to convey? Absolutely not. What Monet did was give his audience just enough information so that the picture told the rest of the story and his audience could fill in the details. Art is very personal and may mean different things to different people. There are times where some art is completely lost on some people and that is fine too
With regards to photographers, I do not believe that all Photographers are artists. For example, a person simply snapping pictures doesn’t make them an artist. It is what is contained in the images that are captured by the photographer that defines them. Those photographers who can tell a story or convey emotion through their photography does meet the definition of an artist.
When I go out and shoot, I do it with the intention of finding something, maybe even boring or mundane, and then I try to bring life to it or communicate a message through the image. Many of my shots of Texas show the true beauty of my home state. I am proud to be a Texan and anyone who has lived in Texas can understand my love for the Lone Star State. Let’s face it, Texas is like no other place on the planet.
Although I know the rules of photography, as a photographer and artist, I regularly bend the rules in order to achieve the effect that I am looking for. This is what makes photography exciting and enjoyable for me. I do not go out and shoot in order to put food on my table; I go out with the motivation to please myself with the result. If others enjoy my work, then that is just a bonus.
Do you see where I say that your equipment defines you as an artist? No. It makes no difference whether you use a camera phone or a $50,000 rig to capture your images, it is all about the message of your images.
So what is my point? Simply this – If you want to express yourself through photography then go out and do it. Sure, you can learn the rules and ask questions of others, but experiment and express your photography in your own way. I do and I love it.