I find that most people's evolution in photography is simply that early on they find someone's work they really like that moves them or "fits" them.
Then they set about trying to copy it, firstly to see if they can, and secondly, it motivates them to learn and get better.
From that point a lot of people move on and develop their own style.
But some people never really get the copying right, which is why there are so many Ansel clones. They are stuck in a rut of trying to emulate, that they never develop a style, or else they like what that style is and stay there.
When I started out, I was drawn to faces and skin. I loved lighting and how it made faces beautiful. I found street photography too easy and it had no market. I found scenics too easy as well. But making people beautiful was hard. I started copying and learning and eventually that's the direction I took.
I'm not sure I ever found a style per se, just a way to make people beautiful, and that's what I stuck with. But I copied a lot early on and that's how I learned, as well as dozens of seminars and workshops.
So I have no problem with homage photography really, because I don't think there are many originals who started out doing their own style, without copying from somebody.
It's just a part of an evolutionary process of how artists work. And when you critique them, you are merely picking a point in their evolutionary progression.