...and can discover equally-valid attributes about one's self through, say, carpentry, parenthood, or poker playing.

Over the past couple of centuries "art" has come to occupy much of the spiritual function formerly controlled exclusively by religion in western society -- the longing for undestanding of the unknowable other, connection to the universe (including, potentially, a universe populated by "pure signs" in a Jungian or Platonic-ideal sense), etc. Artist as shaman has been a dominant form for at least 150 years. In this respect, photography can be a path to personal knowledge -- but it's difficult to say if any disciple would gain more from working on Photoshop or simply mumbling ancient texts onto the stone floor of your monk's cubicle before undertaking a day of hard labor in the fields.