I've been asleep on my side of the globe and was pleasantly surprised to see some life in this part of the forum. Thanks everyone for participating.
I suppose I am of the school of "Art=Communication", but I realize full well that there are alternative views out there such as "Art=Interaction" or "Art=Metaphysical". I prefer "Art=Communication" because it is applicable to the majority of Art, and specifically to photography as Art. Good communication obviously is "interaction" but a photograph happens to be one of the more static media of expression.
Now, most of us learn to communicate subconsciously. That obviously doesn't mean there is no structure to it or doesn't have rules. Perhaps the Art teachers haven't been able to define the rules very well. The rules of Art can not be too strict, it results (or resulted if you will) in Artists desperately trying to break the rules, redefining them, or otherwise showing that the rules are not applicable. To then say that there are No Rules At All may be exaggerating as well. If we consider Art as an element of our society than it has structure. The trick is to properly define the structure, so we can transfer/communicate the concept. (Note that we used to ascribe something to the divine beings if we couldn't explain it properly).
Back to the criteria. Given the above, I want to emphasize the idea that it is a loose definition. One that helps me to more effectively judge images on artistic merit. I wouldn't personally apply the criteria as strict rules, and, most importantly, one should not reverse the implication:
if the rules apply, then it is art.
is completely different from:
if it is art, then the rules apply...
If you like art in some utilitarian sense, then the criteria are certainly not "required".
But it's one thing to say "art is a utility", it is entirely another to say "a utility is art".
So what about Competence?
By "technically correct" I mean: It should be reasonably clear what the medium of expression is, and how that expression should be interpreted. In photography that means a reasonably exposed image and a subject that is reasonably focused. If you don't know how a camera works, you won't be able to communicate with it. You can obviously experiment with how much blur or lack of light an image or subject can sustain until it becomes unrecognizable as an expression of art, but that simply indicates that you are really competent in the use of the camera.
As for Composition:
Obviously, as indicated, this is possibly the most discussed, least understood part of photograhy, and I am certainly the last person to be contributing something authoritatively to this matter. (And I certainly don't want this to become another monologue on the vagaries of aesthetics).
Given that "Art=Communication" I personally prefer to think of composition as creating a well-formed sentence structure. The rules of composition are then akin to the rules of language. The rules do not restrict, but instead supply relatively objective guidelines for an expression with all the freedom that comes with it, without losing the ability to effectively communicate with an audience or, better yet, captivate the audience.
I believe one of the rules of language states that a sentence has one subject only. If there is another noun, not part of the subject, it would for example be the object.
Again, I am not trying to be strict about it, I just find that there are useful parallels. If it's ambiguous what the subject of a photograph is, then the composition is usually not considered well-formed or complete and it will be hard to come up with a single sentence that describes the photograph well.
This also doesn't mean that you can't stretch the rules to their limit, but that will only help to define the rules. They are there, because as soon as you lose the ability to communicate with your audience, you apparently crossed the line. And, if it is your intention to *captivate* your audience, then it would be useful if you didn't stretch the rules too much.
I suppose "Rules Are Tools"?
A predetermined message:
I presume we all agree that there is a difference between "Intent" and "Meaning". If you "intent" to convey a certain "meaning", then I call that "predetermination". Obviously, if the majority of your audience assigns a different meaning to your expression, then you have an opportunity to learn what kind of expression will effectively convey that different meaning.
When using language we also do not just randomly utter words. Because we intent to communicate a certain meaning, we predetermine the sentences we will use. (Although I admit that in the internut age...).
Note that I don't define who or what the audience is. To me that is irrelevant although I do not personally believe in a two men art club.
1) Is my one qualifying photograph "Art"?
Yes. IMO The important factor would be that it is your intent to produce such a photograph. Whether it takes you your entire life to do so, or you struggle your entire life to produce another, is between you and your divine creator.
2) Am I an artist?
I associate the word "artist" with the question: "What do you do for a living?"
If you do everything in your power to be an artist, then you are an artist. Whether you'll be an artist with a capital A remains to be seen. But it may not be in your lifetime that you will see it, and you have to accept that as part of the deal.
3) Am I a photographer
Did you do any weddings recently?