Finding out what your audience likes or doesn't like is important. It doesn't matter whether you take the greatest photos in the world, if nobody looks at them they won't amount to a hill of beans. Second, I wrote a short story about forest animals because I thought it would be fun. I was probably more motivated to work hard and write a good story because it was fun to do. I can't imagine any prof. would give a high grade to any work that was truly not up to par.
Does Stephen King push peoples' buttons when he writes horror stories? Do you think Serrano might have been pushing peoples' button with "Piss Christ?"
Pushing peoples' buttons is what artists do.