The golf analogy is poignant for me personally, because when I play, I'm really competing against myself. Its a struggle to make all the muscles in my body move correctly to strike the ball and make it go where I want. And when I make photographs or paint, I am competing with myself, my doubts, emotions, thoughts, and again its a struggle. If it were not, it would be boring for me.
That's a good analogy, James. I feel pretty much the same way myself, except for the golf part. I have no desire to take up golf in my retirement. The struggle in expressing the original photographic concept with ink on paper, and the incentive to travel to get more photos, is sufficient for me.
Like Rob, I left sport behind when I grew up, yet I think there's a type of ballet going on in rugby and Aussie Rules which could be interesting for the photographer, though I have to admit I'd find a ballet of Swan Lake with all male dancers, with hairy legs, probably more interesting than the ballet of a football match .
Such questions as, "Is photography art?" are perhaps the wrong questions. More pertinent might be, "Can
photography be art?" or "Can photography be an art form?"
Is architecture art? Is gardening and growing flowers art? Is writing art? Is dancing art?
Such questions can only be answered in relation to a specific definition of art. Define what art is
first, before attempting to answer the question, otherwise it's all waffle.
I'm not going to propose such a definition, but I think there's a distinction to be made between a skill that has practical benefits as it's main purpose and a skill that doesn't. The latter would tend to be considered as art.
For example, writing is a skill. Is writing art? If the answer is, yes, then all the above I've just written is art.
Instrumental music is probably the purest example of an art form because it's totally impractical. It appeals directly to the emotions but essentially has no meaning in the literal sense. It's affects the listeners' emotions in different ways, sometimes radically different ways. There's no standard of meaning, to a B flat 7th chord for example, that has practical benefits in communication. It's art.