No photographic image has a sense of presence, rather it has technical qualities that interrogate the sensitivities of the viewer. Long experience with photographic exhibitions incline me to think that the majority of viewers leave with the same preconceptions, preferences, and prejudices that they came in with. If a picture tweaks something in a viewer that viewer will say the picture has presence, is cool, waxes sublime, etc, etc. Some people see nothing, say nothing.
As for the detachment of the photographic process from the soul of the photographer I think it is more a case of someone with such-and-such a psychological make up inevitably produces pictures with a such-and-such appearance. Tracing the connection between the two is both fascinating and rewarding and underlies much of the appreciation of art in general.
I think you nailed it.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.