Are they actually photos?
To me my images are just images, work of art produced with tools I claim to master at a certain level
As humans we like to categorize the world putting things into orderly boxes. We cannot help ourselves. It is in our genes. It makes us comfortable if something does fit nicely into an established pattern. When something does not fit we are divided. Some find that new thing very interesting and others goes into panics and try to make it go away.
Is it of importance whether my images are considered being paintings, photos or digital art? Not for me personally. However I can not honestly claim it to be paintings as I never used physical paint or brushes.It might actually be more profitable to claim it to be anything other than photos as many people look at photography as a lesser art form than all others. It is hard to get into galleries and buyers wont pay as much for photographic work as for real paintings.
My pictures start by an exposure by use of a camera of real object. For me that makes them photos. How can they stop being photos? Take a look at these photos from a photo agency:
These examples are modern photography that alter the reality in different ways and are recognized as photographs by us all. In my own photography I rarely alter anything on location before the exposure like the landscape photographer. Not by rule or taste. Just because that is not my thing. Granted my models are a bit unusual but is a photo defined from what is its subject? Can a picture of a crack in the wall be less a photo than that of a pretty woman or a nice car?
After the shoot I alter the content of the primary exposure in all the ways I find suitable to my expression. Just like the model and landscape guys do. I may even combine the images with copies of it self - in the old days called double exposure and not something that would disqualify it as a photography.
However you choose to categorize it the digital age has arrived and is here to stay. The old perspectives and way of thinking has to make room. Not because they are worthless or wrong but because there are new things to explore. And the place for the artist to be is in the front of this expedition.