You have not sidetracked the discussion, but enriched it. Thank you.This.
I suppose there have been many discussions on APUG about the intention of a photographer vs. a photograph's intrinsic value as an isolated object. I think about this often.
I'd take this even further. For me, the most important thing is my own intention, and how well I achieve it. Usually I'm disappointed to some extent since getting to 100% is something like reaching perfection and probably not attainable. But the success or failure of my photograph is about how close I got to what I intended the picture to be. If a viewer perceives or feels or "gets" some of my intention, then that's another kind of success. Sometimes people notice or like my photos for other reasons, and that's nice but honestly I don't really care that much. I think of this as a luxury and benefit of photography being a hobby and not a profession for me.
So here's a sort of "tree falling in the woods" example: On flickr there is a group called "minimal landscapes, take the long view" which I particularly like. I would never consider submitting a photo that I did not make specifically with the intention of creating that style of photograph. For me this intention implies other things, like searching for the minimalist aspect of a scene that captures some essential quality of it. Many other people dig through their images and then edit them to match the style of the group. For me this distinction is important. It's the distinction between the intent of the photographer vs. the image in isolation, without context as a separate object.
Another example of this is that in my flickr photostream, several of the pictures I'm the most happy and satisfied with have some of the fewest views. I'm happy because the picture came out to be what I wanted it to be; it doesn't matter if that doesn't grab the attention of "flickr viewers" ( notice if I was a professional, this kind of thinking would fail! )
I suspect ( but don't really know ) that photographers and all artists tend to break into groups this way too. Probably for some, the goal is to produce a final result that has intrinsic value in isolation, while for others conveying and carrying some point ( mood, emotion, feeling, message, way of seeing something, etc etc ) is the point and the final picture has little value without that context. Probably we all want some of each, and it's not so black and white.
Anyway, sorry I didn't mean to sidetrack the discussion to a different topic. I don't really know what is "important", but I suspect the motive of the photographer probably matters to the question.