I'm not usually a Ken Rockwell fan, but I think his description of an "artist" from his "The Seven Levels of Photographers" is worth quoting here. I'm not sure where this leaves Ansel, or Henri, or Gene, or any of the other folks to whom we often refer, but his description certainly includes Vivian Maier:
"An artist fixes his imagination in a tangible form called a photograph. He captures the spirit of place or person, real or imagined, in this photograph and the viewer responds to this.
"An artist is a complete master of his tools. When creating art an artist transcends common existence as his spirit flies up to meet that which he is capturing. He may practice and learn his tools while he is not creating, however when creating the camera becomes an extension of his mind. No conscious thought is expended on the technical issues with which he is a virtuoso while creating photographs.
"To make a musical analogy, a musician may woodshed his scales, but when he's jamming he's not even thinking about fingerings. He's lost in the passion of the moment.
"Just like professional surfers who have a dozen boards or pro guitarists who have 23 axes, an artist may have a slew of cameras, each for a different purpose.
"Likewise, other artists may only have one camera, or none at all. It just doesn't matter.
"Artists sometimes dress funny and tend to stay up late. They usually prefer to photograph attractive young women and are proud of it.
"No one ever sees their work since they have crummy ability to promote themselves, and sadly, usually don't even appreciate their own excellent work. Those that do drop down to Whore, which sadly and paradoxically means you will never see the work of a true artist unless you know one personally. Good artists are usually too embarrassed to show their work to anyone unless you are intimate with them, since their work is their soul.
"Artists use any sort of camera, including pinholes and disposables, or 8 x 10s. They use whatever instrument they need to create what they want."