Let us start off saying that I, by my own definition, am a photographer. I am by no means a particularly talented practitioner of my tool, but it is my tool of choice nonetheless, and I have spent countless hours and shutter-snaps using and learning it.
I do not consider myself to be an Artist.
This is not to say that all photographers are not Artists; but only to note that I, personally, am not. I create nothing. Though I can expand and use effectively concepts created by others, I have little creative talent of my own. An Artist makes; I do not. What I do is merely to SEE Art, to see beauty, and elegance in the world around me. I try then to show those around me the beauty and... soul? energy? chi? I know not what to call it... that I see surrounding me, to show them that everywhere, all around them is art. I want people to see what I feel to be beautiful, in hopes that the beauty will make them happier. Maybe. Or maybe I don't know why I capture those bits of time, those moments that fill each frame. Perhaps I merely wish to see if they also can see what I am seeing as I look upon this world.
How do you define beauty? How do you define Art? Put boundaries, guidelines on it? What makes something "art" or not art? Is it the aesthetic sense that determines beauty? Or can something be beautiful based on its physical being, its soul, if you will. I still have no word for that quality. No descriptor seems accurate.
Imagine that you are presented with two of an item. Let us use wooden boxes as an example, though any object will fill the role adequately. One is clearly much pleasing to the eye than the other, being quite pretty by the standards of any person. The second, it is finely made by a master craftsman and is of the finest quality, but he has no eye for graphic aesthetics, so it is quite plain. Which one is art? My own tendencies would drift towards the plainer of boxes, for I appreciate and understand the not only the time the crafter put into making such a box, but all the time and love and soul he poured into learning his craft that he COULD make a box of such quality. I feel that THAT is art, much more than a box that the maker knew to be pleasing, but put much less self into.
I would like to use something more tangible than a box in that example, for you cannot visualize the fine work of that lovingly made plain box without actually holding it in your hand, or actually understanding the methods of its making; nor can you easily see the difference in the beautiful box without similarly holding it. Anything more visual, however, leaves the realm of soul, and enters again the realm of aesthetics.
I wish I could take a photo of air, that I may show people how beautiful it is, even though we cannot see it. Or of the dirt on which we stand, which is also wonderful. But these, alas, are things which cannot be seen. So I continue to work to show to people those things that CAN be seen, if they would only pay attention.
It was suggested to me recently that if I do not name myself an Artist, maybe I could accept Historian as a title of sorts. I find this a unique suggestion, and one that may well be true for many of my fellow shutterbugs, and even for my own person at times. When one snaps the frame, a bit of history, a fraction of a moment of time, is captured on that thin sheet of chemicals for all to see and later remember. So, as such, a photographer might be considered a Historian of sorts. I still find the term lacking, however, as it does not fit the purpose I reach for as I shoot.
Perhaps I should call myself instead a Graphic Philosopher, as I seek to see and portray the beauty of the world for myself and others. This is the most accurate term I have encountered yet, and has just come to me as I write this. I may tomorrow wake up and decide it not to be, but the basic concept shall continue to apply as long as I listen to the snap of my shutter, closing on the lightplay streaming through my lens.
The images I capture are not Art; rather, they are of Art.
I am a Photographer.