I still remember when I asked my printer “but whose expression is it going to be?” he said “it’s yours.”
On the others side of the coin, though I may nail down an images to complete similarity or make it better, if I just copied it from someone – the vision will always be of someone else.
It takes more than just awesome photographs. It is not who post-processed. It is not who set-up the camera nor the one who printed the work that counts. I doubt that Kenna would claim Ruth Bernhard’s work when he is printing her photographs or Voja when printing Bresson’s. I doubt that Leibovitz’s assistants would claim it’s their idea when Annie just shows up and everything is set. It’s the vision that sets it apart.
An obvious example is when assistants became masters themselves. Kenna has Hokkaido – totally different aesthetic from he was an assistant. He was freed from their master’s vision and was able to find his.
Make no mistake, the technical part of photography is a part of the creative process. But in the end, it is the creative vision that is the role of an artist. Everything else is by choice. We can only hope that after years of photography and art, we find ours too.