I belong to several art forums, where this issue is debated in great lengths. There are those who say they refuse to work from photographs and insist on life sittings and then there are those who really don't understand what all the fuss is about.
Artists have referred to a variety of tools such as this 18th century camera obscura cabinet, where a painter works inside a cabinet with a patron standing outside.
Photography has been used for assistance as way back as the 19th Century. Thomas Eakins for example would photograph his models and landscapes and create his own "virtual reality". When paintings of his were compared to his photographs, it was shown that some elements had been moved or changed in size or shape from the original photograph. Eakins was not so much working from these photos as he was working with them.
The French Orientalist painter Jean Léone Gérôme is another realist painter, who would hire professional photographers on location while traveling in the East to record all that he had seen on his travels. Along with these photos, and on location sketches he then would return to his studio in Paris to create the most amazingly beautiful paintings. There are many other artists who we hold in very high regard today who have understood the benefits of photography and who used it as a tool to create beautiful art.
There is nothing wrong with using modern inventions as tools to further ones ability to create art as long as the artist is always aware of the limitations and tries to overcome these by his own creativity and desire to make the work uniquely match his style and vision.
More about the camera obscura
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