While I am not trying to pick on you Clive, you are not the only one who has made a comment like this on the thread - how about the next thread that asks "what is the ideal developer for film X?" or ask "how do I accurately perform Y technique?", I post "why can't we just take pictures and stop worrying about all of this other stuff that is devoid of artistic merit or meaning?". We are trying to bring greater merit to photography except that we are discussing why we do it, not how. My mother once asked me if I could give her a final answer in philosophy, as in could I just tell her the conclusion of a thesis I was working on so that it would be meaningful and therefore absolve her of having to read the 50 pages - I told her if I gave her the final answer without her reading the argument, the final answer would be meaningless since it only has value if you understand the process and the whole of the argument.
To use your cabinetry example, say you had two cabinets that were almost identical but cabinet A was outselling cabinet B 3-to-1. Would you not ask why this is such? What is it that draws buyers to this model over another? Are you navel gazing? Yes, since you are not doing anything, selling anything, creating anything but does it not still have merit or value as a maker of cabinets? The question that Andy is asking seems to be what makes a photograph into a photograph and not just a piece of paper with tones on it. How is the production of this item different than what any other artist does, apart from technique? I can't draw worth spit but if I put as much time into drawing as I put into my photography it would be a lot better - why do I continue to photograph and not draw then? Ask yourself this Clive - why do you photograph anything in the first place and not just make cabinets? If you practice photography to record events/times/places that are meaningful, then there is nothing wrong with that. If it is because you enjoy the process of photography and it makes you happy, then there is nothing wrong with that. If it is because as an artist, you have something to say and this is you way of saying it - congratulations, you now need to understand why photography provides you with your artistic voice and you are a philosopher. Or, if you are an artist who picked this medium at random and are too lazy to give your audience everything they deserve including your mental sweat of what it is you are saying, in my opinion, your art will suffer. I could tell you why I picked photography but without explaining the process, it would be meaningless.