Rockwell’s article and the forum comments allude directly or indirectly to the question, “What is photography?” Is it a hobby? Is it is a tool used in work (e.g., photojournalism, medicine, law enforcement, etc.)? Is it purely a means of diversion? Certainly, these are things photography can be. For some persons, photographing an object is merely utilitarian (e.g., photographing one’s possessions for insurance purposes). Accounting exhaustively for photography’s “reason for being” or “use” could be difficult, as the reasons for “doing” photography are myriad.
But Rockwell speaks of photography as art, and it is in that sense that he holds “the camera doesn’t matter “. Kennephoto, in an earlier reply, raises the issues of context and status, namely, whether children’s paintings in Kindergarten are art, as well as whether any given person with a camera considers herself or himself an artist. Context and status are crucial to Rockwell’s article. If one is an artist, then one’s purpose is to create an artwork and to have it displayed or appreciated in an appropriate context (e.g., a gallery, museum, exhibition, or other like setting). An appropriate context could also include an art class on photography where students and instructors critique the artist’s work according to norms proper and relevant.
Consequently, for photography qua photography, vision–to use Rockwell’s word–is paramount for an artwork or set of artworks (i.e., one’s photographs), and one’s vision (purpose, intent) guides one’s choices in tools, media, and other resources in realizing his or her art. A camera or other equipment may “matter” to a photographer-as-artist to the extent that the equipment allows a photographer to represent, emote, or otherwise communicate his or her vision. It seems reasonable to affirm, then, that, *by themselves*, “cameras don’t matter” for photography qua photography.
This is the sense I gather from Rockwell’s piece in connection with “the camera doesn’t matter” issue, and I think it is one that makes for interesting and reflective forum comments. Rockwell is making reference to photography as art–or at least to moments when photography is done as art–and not to photography in an exclusively extra-artistic context.