In most cases, when someone refers to photography and is trying to use the word to differentiate it from taking a snapshot with a camera phone... they really mean SLR photography.
For the budget you have laid out, I would say you should not get an SLR camera. It will take $700-900 to get properly started with what you would need for artful creations.
I would suggest you look at the Canon PowerShot S5 IS. Also the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ28. These are versatile cameras with high quality images that are less expensive than SLR cameras.
In addition to the camera and memory card, I would look at a carrying bag/pouch and a tripod. A tripod is an underrated and often very useful tool you can use to get shots that you would not be able to get shooting handheld. This includes night shots, light/star trails, crisp landscape shots with maximum depth of field, panoramic stitches, and multi-exposure action shot merges or HDRs.