In essence a camera is a recording device, capturing patterns of differing tones that can be looked at again and again as photographs. In this way a photograph is no different to a painting, except that the recording process is usually quick and mechanized whereas painting (usually) is the opposite. The mechanization of the photographic process negates some of the perceived manual skill involved in making, for example, a painting, which tends to give photographers a lower ranking in the art world. This is unfair for many reasons, not least because many revered painters and sculptors employ others to do some or even all of the work involved in creating their work for them. What is important to the good name of the artist in this case is the intent behind the work, and it's just the same for the photographer.
A camera can therefore be looked upon as a sort of assistant in the creative process, in much the same way as a painter has an assistant. It's not the kind of assistant you would get a lot of conversation out of, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you're trying to get things done quickly. For my own work I walk around with my 'assistant' and when I see something that catches my interest - something like this stack of rusting Christmas trees - I simply ask the assistant to record the image for me whilst I direct them and tell them how much of this or that to use. They're fairly reliable and just about the only time they won't help out is when I've forgotten to feed them. Wages are not a problem as I pay upfront when I hire them.
That's how I look at it anyway. Sometimes I even end up in the pub with them, although they will insist on sitting on the table.