Larry - I need to totally disagree with you. Photography is the skill of producing photographs. There is a big difference between a photograph and digital picture. "digital art" produces stunning pictures - which more often then not do NOT reflect anything real.
Photography as I understand it - is about recording a real moment or object in the most accurate way.
Yes I understand that some tweaks can be allowed - but these should be minor and unnoticeable. The "photo" should remain something real that the photographer saw. Photography is about VISION - NOT about enhanced photoshop / lightroom skills.
My 2 cents
You have broadened the subject from the definition of a photographer to what his subject should be, i.e., what he chooses to present, and how he chooses to present it, to the viewer. Now we are in subjectivity-land.
I'll go back to my carpenter analogy - the carpenter may be a good or poor craftsman. He may choose to make a fine home (by YOUR standards), or some piece of woodworking "art" to take to the Burning Man Festival. Or the very same carpenter may do both on different occasions. What he chooses to "carpent", makes him no less a carpenter. ;-)
In any case, he will likely make use of the best tools available to him to do his type of creating.
I made no mention of "digital art", and my comments about what defines a photographer, I believe, hold while discussing your preferred "realism" style.
I personally think that your preference that the photograph represent "something that the photographer saw" is reasonable, considering that digital art may readily be created on a computer alone, with no camera involved at all..
I believe that the usual expectation is that a photographer would use a camera. With that understood, I would then expect him to point the lens at something of his choosing, operate the camera as he chooses or as his ability allows, and then, using the image presented to his recording medium by the lens, complete the photograph per his personal "vision", using his "completing" tools, …the same as A. Adams and the host of acknowledged-to-be-great-photographers have (usually) done. "Usually", because there is always, among any numerous group of creators, some few "purists" who have decided that less is more. These same few might declare that the artistic fine woodworker is not a carpenter, because he decided to add some particular finish or stain, to, in his opinion' "enhance" the piece.
I hardly think this would disqualify him as a carpenter. But the purist might be left wondering what the natural wood would look like, if the so-called carpenter hadn't "messed it up", with his post-processing.
When the definition of photographer is a person who "realistically " presents all his subject material, …if this could be perfectly done, and if numerous persons attained this level of expertise, there would be no such thing as a recognizable "style" by which to differentiate among them.
If we add the requirement that the composition be perfect ( by some arbitrary standard), that the lighting be perfect also, by the same arbitrarily decided standard, then when all was done, there would be ONE style. Any one's work would be perceptually the same as that of any other.
"Vision" would be limited by decree, and any expression of personal style, a digression, …disqualifying the offender, one would expect, as "a photographer".
If the intent is more than the "accuracy" expected in photographic recording in the fields of science, medicine, archeology, etc., … if the objective is to create something pleasing to look at or display,then some degree of artistic license has to be permitted, if all work is not to be the same in presenting "Just the facts, Ma'am" ;-)
I wonder if you would consider A. A. less than a photographer, because the lighting he presents in a print of "Moonrise" (or some other work of his) wasn't REALLY as dramatic in the flesh? ( For a before-and-after example of Ansel's "post-processing" see this link:
There is discussion on the above linked-page that will be of great interest, I'm sure, to anyone participating in or enjoying this part of this thread! Accuracy vs. Interpretation(or "Vision")
(Is a bell pepper really seen as in Weston's print without some contrivance as to lighting , and without a few darkroom touches? Set one on your table, and see if it looks the same :
It would cause somewhat of stir to declare either of these two men "not a photographer!".
Do we think they would have used Photoshop?
Thank you for your detailed reply.
The web is loaded with very skilled photographers pictures - in which we can easily identify that the "picture" we are viewing - is NOT a photograph of something real - but a photograph that was taken "to the next level" and changed into something I would call "digital art".
I am not discussing the what label I would use for the person who created this picture. He or She may well be a world class photographer. I am saying, that to my mind, the result is not a photograph but a picture, and reflects PP skills more then VISION.
Look any pro photographer selling his work, is coerced to doctor up his photos- so the client will be impressed.
PP is so advanced, easily obtained, and easy to use - that we are all tempted to use it!
The results are stunning. The client does not care about how we did it.
However in my opinion - this is becoming less and less about photography - and more and more about PP and graphic design.