Just read Mustafa's comment:
"I love plus 60 years old optics and I worship the designers for how much effort and intelligence and experiments they put in their design, ergonomics, glass research, optical technology, mechanism and tooling expertise....(snip)"
I am both... I like Barthes description of a camera "clocks for seeing". I like to handle old cameras with gears and knobs.
I did part with my entire rangefinder "collection" I am a better SLR user. I did keep a Keiv and a Lietz 50mm f2.
To say photography can "approach" art (Art) is to say there's an all-knowing authority, a gatekeeper, who ultimately decides what Art is; prices it too. Of course, this authority usually decides in favor of the Old World crafts of painting and sculpture because, well, how can you not, right? Often the authority is named something like "Leo Castelli". The authority is never wrong, except when something like the Starn twins comes along, or when Rembrandts that cost a museum millions suddenly seem to have a suspect provenance after all. Then the authority is nowhere to be found.
I don't really care what your photographs look like. If they help you or others examine or explain your engagement with the world they *are* Art. Even the crappiest Winogrand, the weirdest Krims, say something to me, while a gorgeous six figure Ansel Adams is just a pretty postcard. (Except for Moonrise, the only great image he made that has people in it. That's why I keep a bouquet from that cemetery in my darkroom, as a fetish.)
I get your remark about "Artists". Most of them are more worried about what shade of black to wear. But if the artist can produce crap then the craftsman can produce art.:)