The debate over whether photography is art, and a sustainable art form has been debated since, well, the beginning of photography much as every "new" art movement is birthed and grows into its own life form. With that debate comes the question of whether a photographer is an artist...
Of course, as a photographer with the experience of years in lighting, set building, darkrooms, and now the digital age, I consider myself both an artist and a photographer. Alfred Stieglitz, a prominent American photographer who returned from Germany to New York in the 1890's, was determined to prove just that. He believed, and through his ARTWORK established that photography is a medium just as capable of artistic expression as painting or sculpture. More than 120 years after his dedication to proving the creative ART of photography, the debate still exists. However, another determining factor in photography as an art form is its sustainability. While the medium has evolved, it has not gone away, and is widely recognized as a legitimate form of art by the most noteable museums and collectors around the world.
Photography's ability to express emotion, depict a realistic or surreal scene, be altered, edited, improved upon, added to, turned into mixed media, used as collages, rendered into 3D forms, etc all points not just to sustainability, but to the ever evolving mind of each and every artist.
My opinion is simply that the focus, and reason of the continued debate comes down to Miss Piggy. What is a photo worth vs a painting? Its about our own values placed on various forms of art, our own desire to be recognized for our talents in everything from our displays in museums and galleries to our financial gain, to recognition in our own circles and in the art community as a whole. Value. What are you worth? And is your art (photography) and extension of you?
A book was once published of twenty photographs by twenty photographers, of the same model. They were as different as twenty paintings of the same model. Which was proof, once and for all, of the flexibility of the camera and its validity as an instrument of expression. There are many paintings and buildings that are not works of art. It is the man behind whatever instrument who determines the work of art. - Man Ray
"Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces." ~Sigmund Freud