A predetermined message:I think that predetermination of meaning is an illusory goal. In my experience, the most success images are ones that transcend the creator's intent or ambition. When the art works, it achieves a complexity and richness that allows each viewer to take something different and personal from it. This is how I judge that a photograph I have created is art and not just a picture.
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.
I want to emphasize the idea that it is a loose definition. One that helps me to more effectively judge images on artistic merit.
"Be careful about trying to analytically judge work as art. The definition of art is a simple binary, yes or no, that each person makes for themselves. The criteria: did this work go past your eyes and touch your heart or mind? If yes, then it's art... for you.
"As to the question "are you an artist?" In my opinion, if you say you are, you are. If someone else says you are, you are. Being an artist is not a job, but a calling. We should not confuse being an "artist" with being a "successful" or "popular artist"."
You have made some excellent points here, all too often the success part gets confused with talent. Sometimes they do coexist, and you can through academic credentials into the mix to confuse things more. Artist or not???Good question, some of the most impressive examples of any kind of 'art' come from sources that people do as a hobby, thus yielding the word amateur, in its truest form. Others function in a more matter of fact mode, take a wedding photographer as a job. First, there are those who do an adequate job with the best equipment and are successful. Others have much lesser gear, and do an even better job. Who is the artist? Either, both? Neither? Ultimately it is up to the viewer to decide if a particular type of work or image has that certain something. I'll accept either label, but luckily count on my main career outside of photography to keep food on my table happily.
Don't know how much I added to the conversation overall, but thanks for letting me be part of it, it is what drives any of us lovers of photography to go on and strive for improvement, great thread...