I had the pleasure of interacting with a South African artist, Joyce Carrera, on a number of occasions. She's a gifted painter, and normally gives a few "make you think" comments in conversation passing.
One of these comments stood out for me. She had been lectured while studying art by other well known South African artists such as Diane Victor and Robert Hodgins. Her comment was that "...in art school, there's no soul inside the art they teach. Everything needs a reason, and the reason is typically screwed up".
How true. I've been doing photography all in all quite a number of years, but only seriously for about four. And this year I signed up at an art school to focus in on my skills. I was reminded of her comment, when I was told that one of my projects I gave in wasn't good enough. Apparently no thought went into it, yet to me, it was a decent attempt at what I thought was a good show.
Another thing we get taught is that we ned "concepts, concepts, concepts". Yes, we need to draw inspiration from various sources. But a lot of the time, I feel that if you get asked to do something (e.g. photograph a wedding), the concept thats motivating is that "I will give you money in exchange for documenting my big day". Nothing more to it. Its a simple thing. And another thing I draw on is working with what I've got. Sometimes, especially when I was a much younger student without work, studying psychology, and starting as a photographer, I didn't have a huge budget for props and elaborate photoshoots. And if I look back at some of my images, some of the best photos I took (sometimes even on a cellphone) were incredibly minimalistic.
Does thinking the sunset is beautiful, and taking a picture of it, not make it art because there's no strong message behind it? Absolutely, 110% not! Don't read to heavily into the so-called "art professionals" that will say "The use of colour here indicated this or that". Turn your ticket in, and get your money back at the door if you think otherwise.
Sometimes, the only real reason for doing something is that "I'm getting paid", "Because I want to", or "Because the end result looks good". After all, I doubt Van Gogh spent a month drawing sketches about Starry Night, and a year thinking how he's going to paint it. He probably picked up his brush, mixed a few paints, and went on his way, interpreting what he saw...