When we talk about art, what comes to mind tends to be the more traditional forms like painting and sketching, then perhaps the more craft-oriented styles like ceramics and sculpting. But is photography really considered as a form of art?
Back in the days when cameras were first invented, they were there to faithfully record the facts, such as family portraits with everybody putting on their most serious face on. The skills were more inclined towards the developing techniques rather than the photo shooting ones, since back then the developing took place manually in the dark room with a mix of chemicals, and not just by a click to the printer.
A bit more recently, right before the invention of digital camera, was definitely when the skill of shooting at the right angles reign high. The idea of taking artistic photos became more common, but there isn't any instantaneous way for previewing the shots on site, and the cost of developing was much higher, so every frame genuinely counted.
Nowadays, almost everyone is equipped with a DSLR, or even just snapping away happily with their trusty ol' iPhones. It is much easier to get a decent shot now, since you have so many chances to get it right with practically no extra cost at all. When an artist tells you he uses photography as his creative medium, how exactly is he different from the Kong gal who photographs her food to death, or the doting father that takes trillion photos of his daughter?
Firstly, photographing makes a great channel for staging a well-known scene, and then for the artist to put a twist to it. There are many photographers out there that stage some very interesting shots, replicating renowned artistic scenes but with their own inputs, such as Gérard Rancinan reenacting the Last Supper with plus size models, or Chow Chun-fai replicating Michelangelo's piece but illustrating the story of the Water Margins.
Another good reason for using photography as the method of expression is, with Photoshop nowadays, it provides an easy way to artificially create imaginary landscapes, with the intention of conveying the artists' message. Yang Yong-liang mixes cranes and electricity poles in what looks like traditional Chinese painting from afar, in order to express China's rapid urbanisation and how we are dealing with the environmental side of things. Photoshop can also be used to conjure an atmosphere that won't otherwise exist with just a regular shot. For example, in Constance and Eric's work, their original films would probably look much like porn, but by artificially blurring the images, it gives an air of sensuality rather than sexuality.
Photography is also spot on for capturing effects that only lasts for seconds, such as Olaf Mueller and his bubbles. By taking photos of the natural scenery through the huge bubbles he whipped up, it distorts the landscape with a dreamy touch, and gives it a whole new angle to the regular scenery shots.
There are always the commercial photographers who strictly photographs products or catalogue shots, but luxury items are great eye candies in itself, so is to say those aren't art?